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Calls to Ban Small Power Plants at First Water Protection Summit

A landmark summit of activists, legal experts, NGOs and government representatives discussed the dangers posed by the construction of energy operators to the country’s water assets.

The construction of hydropower plants to produce electricity from Kosovo’s rivers is preoccupying activists working on the future of the country’s water wealth and biodiversity. 

For this reason, in Prishtina on Saturday, they organized the first summit in Kosovo on the theme, “Rivers and their protection.”

On Friday, the movie River was shown.

Dajana Berisha, from the Kosovar Consortium of Civil Society for Sustainable Development, KOSID, warned that Kosovo is in a bad phase – where most rivers are “occupied” to produce energy for economic operators.

“The rapid growth of economic operators has not only caused the degradation of rivers but has also affected the standard of living of Kosovo’s citizens,” Berisha said.

For this reason, she and others propose banning the construction in rivers of small hydropower plants under 10 kilowatts. 

Lawyer and member of “River Lawyers”, Rinon Arifi, said that these hydropower plants are more harmful than useful, and added that many environmental laws are not being implemented.

In 2019, BIRN published an investigation highlighting the risk of damage to Kosovo river flows, endangering the supply of drinking water, as well as the destruction of the environment. 

Work on the Lumbardh River in the Gorge of  Deçan, and then on the Lepenci River in the Sharri National Park and in Lumbardh in Peja, alarmed many environmentalists.

Activist Shpresa Loshaj said she felt disappointed with the Minister of Environment Liburn Aliu, and with all the current institutions regarding the issue of hydropower plants in Lumbardh and Deçan.

“We expected a lot from current institutions. When I met Minister Aliu, he was so enthusiastic about taking the case of Deçan into his hands that I was surprised. But unfortunately, nothing changed,” Loshaj told the summit.

On the other hand, ruling Vetëvendosje party deputy and also leader of the Group of Green MPs Haki Abazi, said Kosovo was on the path towards energy transition.

“Renewable energy technology is 200 per cent cheaper than it was in 2011. We have not used even 1 per cent of our renewable capacity. We have damaged the rivers through hydropower plants, which shows the illegality of the way hydropower plants were built and permits were given,” said Abazi.

Activist Olsi Nika from Albania gave the practice of how to preserve water wealth. He, along with hundreds of other activists, managed to protect the Vjosa river in Albania from degradation. It is the only truly wild river left in Europe.

“The success of Vjosa was that during the time we worked in Albania, there were other environmental cases; in my opinion, they were not as positive as they should be. Even with the protests we did, we tried to give the message of beauty and protection of beauty,” said Nika.

A study by Riverwatch on the rivers of the Balkans noted that 60 per cent of the rivers in the EU do not have a good ecological status, which has led to a dramatic loss in the biodiversity of the waters and its freshness.

The summit was organized by the Kosovar Consortium of Civil Society for Sustainable Development, KOSID and Riverwatch.

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17 October 2022 - 17:01

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.