SEE: Strictly protected areas as well as EMERALD areas, mainly in non-EU countries, and hydropower projects

, NGOs

National protected areas have strong protection and are particularly
relevant in non-EU countries. Out of the 331 HPPs in those protected
areas, 26 are operating or under implementation and 305 are projected
(268 out of which do not overlap with higher categories). Emerald
areas serve mainly as official „planning areas” for future Natura2000
areas in potential EU candidate countries. The Emerald network partly
consists of already protected areas but mostly proposed and planned

2,667 km of large rivers are located in this category.

Many new projects are planned in the Kosovo (e.g. on the Lepenica
border river to MK) and in Serbia along the Visocica River, which
originates from Stara Planina (border region to BG), but also within
Emerald areas in ME, MK and BA. Sometimes entire river valleys, such
as the Lim River valley, are affected by new plans.

Other protected areas such as protected landscapes or nature monuments
and other officially delineated areas and hydropower projects

Of the 712 hydropower plants in other protected areas, 616 are not yet
being constructed. Only 282 out of these 616 projects do not also fall
in one of the higher categories. These are mainly landscape protection
areas but also natural monuments or nature parks with a weaker
protection status.

In total, 3,711 river km are located within other protected areas,
which is quite significant (the overlap with rivers in Natura2000 and
NP areas has already been considered).

Nine new projects are planned along Ibar River in RS. Furthermore, two
huge dams projected in the free-flowing lower Drina fall under this
category – a river stretch that would most definitely be covered by
the Natura 2000 network in an EU country.

On the Balkan Peninsula, strict protected areas cover about 10-15% of
the total working area. They include wilderness areas in all forms of
mountain terrains as well as coastal area and selected areas, wetlands
and river corridors in the low lands.

The protected area network is still rather inhomogeneous among SI/HR
on the western side and BG/GR on the eastern side due to different
implementation of European directives (Natura 2000 network). Many
rivers, narrow valleys and gorges are still not protected in the
central Balkans, and protected area planning is often inconsistent
with other planning. There are all in focus for hydropower

The fact that 32% of all new hydropower projects are planned in
strictly protected areas and up to 17% additionally in less protected
categories shows that this practice is in contradiction to guidelines
and master plans for hydropower, highlighting protected sites as
“no-go areas”. Considering that river valleys are often still not
included in protected areas, hydropower seems to be focusing on river
stretches with high ecological values (mountain ridges, larger rivers
from gorges to lowland). In fact, a significant number of hydropower
plants can already be found in protected areas today, deteriorating
habitats and having strong impacts on whole river catchment as well as
downstream sections of rivers, including related protected areas (see
high number of existing plants in Natura2000 areas).

The results prove that even in national parks the harmful development
of hydropower is an ongoing threat, not only for the park areas
itself, but also for downstream areas in the long run. The
construction of hydropower plants within even strictly protected areas
is not the exception but rather the rule. In areas with the highest
protection status even small hydropower are not acceptable as a
sustainable solution.

Source: Euronatur & RiverWatch