An consortium of international conservation NGOs are calling on Bosnia and Herzegovina to ban hydropower plants in order to protect Europe’s last wild rivers.
Today, the parliament of BiH will decide on a resolution that would permanently ban all new small hydropower plants in the country. The organisations say that if the government fails to implement the law now, or in the future, they will be putting at risk thousands of kilometres of rivers as well as people and wildlife that depend on it.
“This is an opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina to set a powerful example and become Europe’s leader in protecting some of the most intact and biodiverse rivers on the continent,” said Barney Long, senior director of species conservation at Global Wildlife Conservation. “We were encouraged by the recent resolution to protect the rivers, but for this to make any real difference, it must now be signed into law. Otherwise these small hydropower plants are going to continue to cause irreversible damage to the freshwater-dependent wildlife and people that live there, altering the balance of these ecosystems that contribute to the overall health of our planet.”
The rivers that run between Albania and Slovenia, including those in BiH are some of the continents most important for freshwater biodiversity. There are 69 endemic fish species in these rivers alone.
Known as the “Blue Heart”, these Balkan wild rivers are home to species such as marble, softmouth, prespa trout, the endangered Danube, samon, the white-clawed crayfish, and the land around it is home to the endangered Balkan lynx. These rivers provide the habitat needed for 113 of the most endangered fish species in the region.
Despite their ecological value, these rivers are under attack from an onslaught of hydropower plants including in protected areas. There are currently plans for over 3000 dams across the Western Balkans. These projects include the construction of access roads and tunnels which require deforestation, further destruction of the habitat, and interference that will drive out animals and other wildlife.
According to some experts, some 10% of all European freshwater fish species will become extinct or be on the verge of extinction if the plans for these plants goes ahead.
The organizations putting out the call are from a broad coalition including: 2020 Action, American Rivers, Arnika, Atelier for Community Transformation – ACT, CEE Bankwatch Network, the Coalition for the Protection of Rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, David Brower Center, EarthAction, Earth Law Center, EuroNatur Foundation, Freshwater Life, Global Wildlife Conservation, International Rivers, the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Freshwater Fish Specialist Group, the IUCN SSC Freshwater Conservation Committee, Institute for Environmental Security, Rainforest Action Network, The Redford Center, Riverwatch, Save the Blue Heart of Europe, Shoal, the World Fish Migration Foundation, World Future Council, and WWF.