Multilateral development banks have supported no fewer than 82 hydropower projects across southeast Europe, including in protected areas, according to a study by CEE Bankwatch Network released today.
The study finds that the number of hydropower projects in the region that enjoy financial support from multilateral development banks and commercial banks, is even greater than previously known.
Since 2005, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the World Bank Group have extended loans and guarantees totalling EUR 727 million to no fewer than 82 hydropower plants. This includes 37 projects in protected areas like national parks and Natura 2000 sites, or internationally recognised areas of high biodiversity value such as Important Bird Areas.
The EBRD is the biggest known hydropower financier in the Balkans. The bank has supported a total of 61 plants with EUR 126 million, 29 of them inside protected areas, or internationally recognised biodiversity hotspots. Commercial bank financing is harder to track due to the lack of transparency in the sector, but the study authors have identified 158 plants with such financing, of which 55 are in protected areas or internationally recognised areas of high biodiversity value.
“The financiers need to take their share of the responsibility and ensure compliance with local and international standards. Reckless investment decisions can ruin hundreds of pristine Balkan rivers for good,” says Igor Vejnović, Bankwatch’s Hydropower Policy Officer and co-author of the study.
“The EBRD and EIB will be updating their environmental and social policies this year. This is a crucial opportunity to tighten their rules and exclude financing for hydropower in sensitive areas,” adds Pippa Gallop, Bankwatch’s Research Co-ordinator and co-author of the study.
About 2800 new dams are currently projected between Slovenia and Albania. In order to counteract this spate of destruction, ‘EuroNatur’ and ‘RiverWatch’ have launched the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign in cooperation with local partners in the respective Balkan countries.
These dams and river-draining diversions will destroy Albania’s Vjosa—the largest and last untamed river in Europe, send the already threatened Danube Salmon to extinction in Bosnia, jeopardize the survival of the critically endangered Balkan Lynx in Macedonia, displace culturally significant communities, and destroy freshwater resources throughout the region.The world needs healthy rivers and lower impact energy options exist beyond hydropower.
SIGN PETITION Tell the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB), and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) they must halt their Balkan hydropower investments before the last wild rivers in Europe are irreversibly destroyed.
Learn more about Patagonia’s Blue Heart campaign
Source: Bankwatch, Patagonia, http://www.balkanrivers.net