The government of the Serb entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska (RS), has signed a contract with a Chinese investor to construct another hydroelectricity plant on the Trebišnjica River in eastern Herzegovina, although the project is an ecological hazard that could seriously threaten the Neretva River.
Local media reported that RS would guarantee a €190 million loan from the Export-Import Bank of China for the 159-megawatt Dabar power plant.
The Chinese loan would cover 60% of the construction cost while the rest would be provided by the Hidroelektrane na Trebišnjici (HET) power company.
The China Energy Gezhouba Group is expected to carry out the work based on a contract signed with the RS government in 2020.
The entire project is disputed because redirecting the natural waterways would reduce the water flow into the Neretva River which passes through Croatia and is already receiving too much seawater from the Adriatic, threatening the survival of flora and fauna in the area as well as farming activities that depend on the river.
A Chinese company is building the new coal-powered thermal power plant block in Tuzla in the Federation of BiH (Croat and Bosniak entity) as well as potentially three HPPs on the Shala River in Albania. Two of the plants are earmarked inside the boundaries of the Theth National Park.
The project has been stalled for many years, but has recently received backing from Gezhouba Group which could see work start soon.
The Shala River flows from the Albanian Alps and has its source near the village of Theth. It feeds into the Komani Reservoir and stretches for 37km through the Shala valley. It is known for its crystalline water and for being rich in wildlife, including freshwater trout. It is often described as a “secret paradise” and a “pearl of the beauties of Koman and Albania.”
The Theth National Park, where two of the plants would be situated, covers 26.3km of mountain and valley. It was established to protect the unique biodiversity and ecosystems that exist there and forests, waterfalls, rivers, and mountains. It has been designated as a Category II by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and an Important Bird and Plant Area. It is also a Protected Historic Centre.
It is home to rare species of flora and large mammals such as brown bear, roe dear, grey wolf, lynx, wild goat, golden eagles, lesser kestrels, and the rock partridge.
Albania has been warned against investments in hydropower by the EU and various international organisations due to the fact they are not long-term sustainable in the context of climate change, and they decimate the natural environment.