Plans to build about 3,000 hydropower plants in the Balkans in the next few years endanger Europe’s last wild rivers and some of the most important biodiversity hotspots on the continent, campaigers said on Saturday.
Stretching from Slovenia to Albania, critics say the hydropower boom threatens animal life, including endemic species of fish, and people’s access to water used for drinking, fishing and farming.
“There is a tsunami of hydropower dam constructions happening here and nobody really knows about it,” said Britton Caillouette, director of “Blue Heart”, a documentary that focuses on efforts to halt the hydropower plans.
“Blue Heart”, which had its world premiere on Saturday in a screening at the Idbar dam near Konjik, focuses on local people’s and campaigners’ efforts to halt the plans.
Investment in renewable energy projects is growing around the world as countries rush to meet clean energy goals under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The EU aims to source at least 27 percent of the bloc’s energy from renewables by 2030.
Western Balkan countries, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, plan to invest billions of euros in building new coal-fired plants to meet rising demand for electricity as old plants are being phased out.
Hydropower is already widely used across the region but environmentalists fear the investment in coal could backfire as governments may be forced to invest hundreds of millions of euros more to upgrade plants to meet European Union environmental standards as the countries progress toward membership of the bloc.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is funding some hydropower projects in the Balkans and has agreed to foster a transition towards sustainable, low-carbon economies int the region.
Ulrich Eichelmann, head of campaign group RiverWatch, said clean energy such as hydropower, could have negative effects on the environment.
“Just because it doesn’t emit CO2 it doesn’t mean it’s good,” Eichelmann told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.