The Jiu River, saved from destruction!

Posted on 21 December 2017

The Bucharest Court of Appeal withdrew building permits for the hydro power plant
Bucharest - The Bucharest Court of Appeal recently withdrew the building permits for the hydro power plant that would have destroyed the Jiu River, in the heart of the national park. Further work on the hydro power plant is thus rendered illegal.

"It is an important victory for nature and for people. No Romanian authority has been determined enough to stop this project in over 12 years, despite all the evidence that proved it was illegal. Justice has done its duty giving a final sentence in this case", says Diana Cosmoiu, National Policy Coordinator at WWF-Romania.

The Jiu Gorge National Park risked being destroyed by a group of hydro power plants which, if finished and functioning, would have used about 85% of the Jiu’s flow, over the whole length of the gorge.

The case got back on the public agenda this year after more than 30,000 nature lovers signed a public petition initiated by environmentalist Călin Dejeu to stop construction works on the Jiu River, but also after WWF publicly requested the urgent intervention of the Ministry of Environment and the Environmental Guard in this case. Several NGOs, together with environmental activists, have documented this case with analyses and studies in a working group set up by WWF; Bankwatch Romania and Neuer Weg took the case to court -- an example of collaboration underlining that together we can achieve seemingly impossible things.

"Now, while Romanians are protesting against corruption and the weakening of the justice system, this case shows us the importance of a free justice and helps us realize how powerful people can react when important values are in danger, including nature conservation. When several legislative projects under debate in the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies tend to weaken the legislation that protects natural areas and wild species in Romania, the fact that the Jiu river was saved gives us hope", added the WWF specialist.

The hydro power project on the Jiu River obtained environmental approval in 2003, before Romania became a member of the European Union, when the environmental rules became much stricter. In 2005, the area where the hydro power plant was being built became a National Park and a Natura 2000 site of community interest. All of this for preserving the natural richness of the area: beech and ash habitats, riparian habitats, habitats with woody vegetation and rocky slopes where species such as brown bear, lynx, amphibians, fish and invertebrates live.
In 2016, the Environmental Guard asked Hidroelectrica to re-evaluate the environmental impact of the Jiu power plant project in accordance with current legislation. The State Company decided instead to appeal the Environmental Guard's decision in court to allow the work to continue unhindered for nearly two years, but the court definitively rejected the action of Hidroelectrica in October 2017.
Hydropower project in Defileul Jiului National Park breaches EU environmental law
© WWF-Romania