Concerns mount about increasing threats to Macedonia’s protected areas and the Lake Ohrid UNESCO site by EBRD investments in fast-tracked infrastructure projects.
On 13 January the Macedonian parliament is set to approve a sovereign guarantee for a loan of up to EUR 160 million for road projects, including the Ohrid-Pestani road that threatens the integrity of the Lake Ohrid World Heritage site of Outstanding Universal Value and the Galicica National Park. The road section is part of a new expressway to the Adriatic sea that threatens to significantly damage the landscape and biodiversity value of Macedonia’s prime tourist attraction.
“It is absurd to damage the UNESCO site and the Galicica National Park, in order to turn Lake Ohrid into a transit stop on the way to the seaside. Macedonian parliamentarians should question the rationale of this investment.” said Fidanka Bacheva-McGrath, EBRD Policy Officer at Bankwatch. “It is beyond comprehension, how this infrastructure is going to encourage regional development, if it will damage Macedonia’s main tourism asset – the natural and landscape value of the Lake Ohrid area?”
The state guarantee will benefit an EBRD investment into a National Roads Programme that includes four road sections. The project was approved by the bank’s board in November and financing of EUR 74 million for two sections was already committed by the bank, however the approval of the second tranche of EUR 86 million that concerns the construction of the Ohrid-Pestani section is subject to completion of environmental and social procedures.
The slicing into small sections of the new expressway around Ohrid and the bundling of the Ohrid-Pestani section within a large investment package is an attempt to conceal the significant impacts of the new road. This infrastructure project will necessitate the rezoning of 54 hectares of the Galicica National Park, and furthermore, UNESCO has already expressed its grave concerns about the lack of comprehensive infrastructure planning in the Lake Ohrid World Heritage site. 
“It appears that both the EBRD and the Macedonian authorities have failed to learn a lesson from the Boskov Most hydropower project, where in 2011 the bank approved EUR 65 million sovereign guaranteed loan for a dam in the Mavrovo National Park,” says Pippa Gallop, Bankwatch research coordinator. “A year ago the bank’s Project Compliance Mechanism found the project failed to comply with the bank’s own environmental standards and last month the Bern Convention opened a case as well. The Ohrid-Pestani road is bound to run into the same complications, so decision-makers should think twice before pushing it ahead in spite of all odds.”
For more information, contact:
Bankwatch EBRD Policy officer
For more background, read a letter sent to the EBRD concerning this project:
 The Galicica National Park and the Ohrid Lake UNESCO World Heritage property of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) are under severe pressure from several projects including a ski resort, a lakeside tourist resort, Corridor VIII railway and the Ohrid-Pestani road. UNESCO expressed concern regarding the lack of comprehensive infrastructure planning and impact assessment for the Ohrid region at the
UNESCO Doha meeting in June 3, 2014:
“There is some concern about the potential individual and cumulative negative impacts of the planned infrastructure projects on the OUV of the property, and ski developments in the property would be likely to be incompatible with its World Heritage status. The mission’s recommendations should be recalled, in particular that a comprehensive action plan for the lakeshore be developed before the projects progress further and that Environmental and Heritage Impact Assessments of these projects be prepared in conformity with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and the ICOMOS Guidelines on Heritage Impact Assessments for World Heritage cultural properties, and submitted along with further technical details of these projects to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before any decisions are taken that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.”
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