Lumbardhi River. Photo: BIRN.

Mayor of Prizren pledges to stop hydropower on Lumbardhi River

Mayor Mytaher Haskuka, representatives of Prizren in the Kosovo Assembly and municipality officials joined residents of the municipality on Tuesday signing a declaration promising to halt all hydropower construction in the area.

In an attempt to preserve the environment, agriculture and economic development in the Municipality of Prizren, citizens, MPs and municipality officials gathered at a conference in the Zupa region of Prizren on Tuesday in protest of the plans for hydropower construction in the area.

Attendees criticized the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, MESP, for failing to provide any information on the number of hydropower plants planned to be built in the region, while also pledging to halt their construction.

Mytaher Haskuka, the mayor of Prizren, joined the inhabitants of Zhupa in their pledge.

“While I am mayor, I will not allow the construction of hydropower plants. But to block 100 per cent of these hydropower plants, we have to work together,” said Haskuka.

Those present signed a statement pledging to use all legal remedies at their disposal to prevent the construction of hydropower plants in the region, because these plans “jeopardize the development of tourism and agriculture.”

The Zupa region, located near the Sharr mountains between Prizren and Brezovica, is best known as a tourist destination because of its rich flora and fauna. Three small rivers that form the Lumbardhi River pass through this region, rich in natural and ecological value.

A number of MPs from the Municipality of Prizren were present, including Zafir Berisha from Nisma, Arber Rexha, Drita Millaku and Salih Zyba from Vetevendosje, and Emilija Redzepi from the New Democratic Party, NDS.

No one from the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning was present at the conference, although Haskuka said that they were invited and had also expressed their willingness to come.

According to Haskuka, in this mountainous region, the construction of many hydropower plants was planned.

“Based on the information we have as a municipality, there are plans to build 13 mini hydropower plants,” he said.

Haskuka said that the benefit from the electricity that these hydroelectric power plants would produce, if constructed, is outweighed by the disadvantages caused by the damage to the ecosystem of the region.

According to him, the construction of hydropower plants would destroy the possibility of continued development of agriculture and mountain tourism, which is fundamental to the survival of the region.

Despite making requests for more detailed answers and concrete information on the exact investment plans in the Zhupa region being made, nothing more is known, he continued.

Haskuka said he felt frustrated and discriminated against as mayor, because they did not have any information on what was planned to be built in this region.

“I have received different information that is contradictory about these hydropower plants, their capacity and location is unknown, and all we know is that they will use the Lumbardhi River and some of its branches,” he said.

Memnuna Ajdini, deputy mayor of the Municipality of Prizren, said that her frequent communication with the residents of villages in this region made it clear that almost all are opposed to the construction of these hydropower plants.

“There are petitions from Zupa inhabitants who said no to the construction of hydropower plants, there is no adequate study of these plants and no public hearings with residents of this area concerning construction plans,” said Ajdini.

Also vocal was Rasim Demiri, a minister in the Ministry of Regional Development, who said that this is an ongoing war that has stretched for a very long time. According to him, the petition to oppose the construction of hydropower has gathered over two thousand signatures.

MPs Emilia Redzepi, Zafir Berisha, Arber Rexhaj, Drita Millaku and Salih Zyba all said they were in support of the residents of the region, and would raise their voices even in central governmental institutions to stop the construction of these hydropower plants. Likewise, they said they would support Mayor Haskuka in all endeavors to the benefit of Zupa residents.

Zupa residents demanded from all political representatives present at the conference that this issue should not be politicized, and rather they should work as hard as possible to have their voices heard at the highest levels of government.

Before ending the conference, Haskuka said there are two solutions he foresees to stop the construction of these hydropower plants. According to him, mobilizing the public as with conferences like this, beyond party and community lines, to strongly oppose building hydropower plants is crucial.

Second, he said, taking the judicial route is also necessary. According to Haskuka, with the help of legal advisers who have worked previously in European countries for the prevention of hydropower plant construction, they could identify the procedural violations present in many of the permits for the construction of the plants.

18/06/2019 - 16:50

18 June 2019 - 16:50

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