New hope for Balkan Rivers: World Bank drops funding for hydropower project in Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia

Joint press release by CEE Bankwatch Network, EuroNatur and Riverwatch

 ++ Other financiers must follow suit ++

Mavrovo National Park is the last known area, in which the critically endangered Balkan Lynx is still reproducing. Photo: Jörg PukownikVienna, Radolfzell, December 22, 2015. The World Bank withdrew its funding for one of the two big hydropower projects inside MavrovoNational Park in Macedonia. This is another stage win for the protection of Balkan rivers from the destruction by the hydro lobby. “The World Bank was long overdue to take this step. Hydropower plants stand in contradiction to the protection of biodiversity and have no place in protected areas such as the Mavrovo National Park”, says Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of nature conservation foundation EuroNatur.

„The World Bank set an example by dropping the funding for the hydropower plant Lukovo Pole. Now, financiers of numerous other hydropower projects within protected areas in the Balkans must follow suit, most notably the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)”, demands Ulrich Eichelmann from Riverwatch. After this first step, the World Bank still has a great deal of catching up to do: major international banks are the leading investors of the Balkan dam craze, which threatens to destroy the last intact rivers of our continent. According to a study by finance-NGO Bankwatch, the World Bank, EBRD and European Investment Bank (EIB) are currently financing hydropower projects with a total of €818 million in funds, severely endangering 30 protected areas such as national parks and Nature 2000 sites. The EBRD is the biggest investor: the bank supports 21 hydropower projects in midst of protected areas – amongst them the Mavrovo National Park, in which the Macedonian government plans the construction of a total of 22 hydropower plants.

On December 4, 2015, the Bern Convention (one of Europe’s most important nature conventions) called upon the Macedonian government to stop all construction projects inside the national park and conduct an extensive environmental impact assessment. The recommendations are also directed at the international financiers of the hydropower projects, particularly at the EBRD. “The construction of hydropower plants inside the Mavrovo National Park stands in stark contrast to the goals of protection. For this reason, we expect that the assessment will lead to the ultimate stop of the projects and the Word Bank’s withdrawal from the Lukovo Pole project is only the beginning ”, says Gabriel Schwaderer.

Background information


Ulrich Eichelmann – Riverwatch:  +43 676 6621512

Katharina Grund – EuroNatur:   + 49 7732 92 72-10