Ombla hydropower project under fire in the European Parliament

The 68 MW Ombla underground hydropower project, for which the EBRD approved a EUR 123.2 loan in 22 November 2011, is once again under fire, this time in the European Parliament. Both the project itself and its approval process have attracted widespread criticism from civil society and biodiversity experts as the project location forms part of a future Natura 2000 site. In 2008 the Croatian State Institute for Nature Protection declared the project “unacceptable for nature”.

This article is from Issue 52 of our quarterly newsletter Bankwatch Mail

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The Environmental Impact Assessment study dates from 1999, however the current Croatian law on EIA stipulates that EIA studies are valid only for a period of two years. In order to attempt to make up for this deficiency, the EBRD made its loan approval conditional on a Natura 2000 assessment study being carried out.

In mid-April MEP Rebecca Harms asked the European Commission to give its views on how the project could have been approved at the EBRD before it satisfied European law, as well as asking what the Commission will now do to ensure that further projects are not approved at the EBRD before EU legal requirements are fulfilled.

The Commission is obliged to answer within six weeks, by which time it may also finally become clear what the new Croatian government's view on on the project is. Earlier this year the new Minister of Environment and Nature, Mirela Holy, announced that an independent review of the project's EIA would take place. However after several indications that the results would soon be announced, at the time of publication there is still no news on the findings of the review.

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Background information about the Ombla hydropower project is available at:
http://bankwatch.org/our-work/projects/ombla-hydropower-plant

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