NGOs urge stop to EBRD loan for Dalmatian hydropower plant
26 October 2011, Croatian Times
Environmental organizations in Croatia and abroad are urging the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) not to go ahead with a planned 123 million Euro loan for the Ombla hydropower plant near Dubrovnik because of devastating consequences the plant’s construction could have on the environment.
In an open letter to the bank, the organisations point to ecological, economic, and
procedural problems with the plans they say even consultants hired by the EBRD assessed to be “high risk.”
Jana Bedek from Croatian Biospeleogical Society said the construction of the power plant would be detrimental for a variety of species living in the nearby caves.
“The hydropower plant planned by the Croatian electricity company HEP would involve flooding a cave with high biodiversity value that is due to be protected as part of
the Natura 2000 biodiversity network when Croatia enters the European Union. Several
important studies are still missing and the Environmental Impact Study is more than 10
years old. It’s an obvious example of rushing to finish destructive projects quickly
before Croatia can be held accountable under EU environmental legislation,” said Bedek.
“It is shocking that a public bank like the EBRD is considering financing this kind of foul play,” she added.
Karst expert Dr. Ivo Lucic said that it is not only the animals that are in danger.
“The plant would be built in karst rock formations that are like a Swiss cheese. No
one fully understands what is connected to what, and trying to plug these carries a
high risk of failure and unintended effects on connected water systems,” Lucic said.
The writers of the appeal to EBRD say that the consultants employed by the Bank concluded that the project would not be cost-effective and could be implemented only with heavy government subsidies or money covered by 200 per cent electricity price increases.
Jagoda Munic from Friends of the Earth Croatia said: “Considering the high
environmental risks, we believe it is unjustified to cause significant disturbance to a
proposed Natura 2000 habitat for a project that may never go further than the first
stage, in which no electricity would be produced.”
“We therefore ask the EBRD to withdraw from the project.” EBRD is expected approve the loan on 8 November.
Earlier this year BBC aired a report on how Croatia’s hasty development ahead of European Union accession could jeopardize some of the world’s richest cave fauna.
Some 40 per cent of Croatia is undershot by cave networks rich in animal life millions of years old that still waits to be uncovered. Yet as Croatia rushes towards European Union membership, development projects could bring these species quickly from “ignorance to extinction,” experts warned.
In this report, Bedek mentioned that companies working on hydroelectric projects in Dalmatia were rushing to get their permits for a construction of a damn that could very well lead to a destruction of nearby cave habitats before Croatia joins the EU, when this environment would be protected.
But head of the Delegation of the European Commission to the Republic of Croatia, Paul Vandoren says EU is keeping a “close eye” on Croatia even before it joins to avoid such environmental tragedies.