International development banks have supported at least 82 hydro-energy projects across Southeast Europe, including the ones implemented in protected areas, thus contributing to the destruction of pristine Balkan rivers – a study written by the international NGO CEE Bankwatch Network claims.
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 study, which covers Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, says that at least 82 plants have been financed by multilateral development banks since 2005. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has been the most important actor (at least 61 greenfield plants supported with at least EUR 126 million). The European Investment Bank (EIB) has provided the largest amount of financing by volume (EUR 445 million for 11 plants).
Altogether a total of 158 greenfield projects with financing from commercial banks, 55 of which appear to be in protected areas were identified in the study.”The most frequent commercial hydropower financiers identified were Austria’s Erste & Steiermaerkische Bank and Italy’s Unicredit Group with 28 loans each. Other banks identified included Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo, United Bulgarian Bank (KBC), France’s Societe Generale, Austria’s Raiffeisen, Bulgaria’s CIBank (now part of Belgium’s KBC), and Montenegro’s Prva Banka”, says the study.
Although hardly any of the financing identified was for plants in legally protected areas, Erste Bank has financed 7 plants in the area of Josanicka Banja in Serbia, with one inside the Kopaonik National Park. Local people report that the plants, together with another 8 plants in the area financed from other sources, have left large stretches of 19 the local streams with little or no water for much of the year.
Unicredit Bank is financing the Zvonce project, currently being built, that has also been causing protests by local people.
The study adds that “the EU too must play an important role” in resolving this problem.
“As well as better supervising the financial institutions in which it has a decision-making role (the EIB and EBRD) and better regulating EU companies operating outside the EU, it needs to be more active in promoting the adoption of EU legislation in the Energy Community countries. The Water Framework Directive is the foundation stone for decision-making on the fate of rivers in the EU and needs to be upheld and extended to the Energy Community countries, together with the Nature and Habitats Directives”, it was said.
(Novi Magazin, Bankwatch, 18.03.2018)
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