Around 40 small hydroelectric dams are planned for construction to capture the potential of the numerous wild streams on the Shar Planina (Shar Mountain) massif. A group of Macedonian ecological associations are protesting the move, saying the dams are going to cause disastrous consequences to the mountain’s pristine biosphere.
Even though the government has announced plans to make Shar Planina a National Park – one of only four such areas in Macedonia – the draft law doesn’t include provisions that protect the area from the construction of hydroelectric dams.
A group of 44 non-government associations have requested the legislature to revise the draft law and enact urgent changes that will stop ongoing construction on Shar Planina. It has become evident that private interest is capitalizing on the draft-law’s ambiguity to hurry-in around 40 small hydroelectric dams. Dismantling the dams after they are built would be impossible.
Iskra Stojkovska of Front 21/42 is a vocal opponent of hydroelectric dams and representative of the group of ecological associations who calls to attention the deficiencies in the draft-law that can be exploited by private interests. According to the association, the construction of hydroelectric dams goes against the official valorization study that provides the basis for the drafting of the Law that recognizes Shar Planina as a national park.
The advocacy group has requested from the Minister of Environment Naser Nuredini (DUI) to place Shar Planina under temporary protection until the draft law is revised and updated with articles that will make it illegal for companies to build hydroelectric dams on the territory of the Shar National Park. The Macedonian Government’s Program for 2020-2024 includes a provision that makes it illegal to build new hydropower dams in protected areas and national parks.
The mountain range’s north-western slopes fall on the Kosovo side of the border and there too people have been trying to ward-off heavy mechanization. Both Serbs and Albanians living in the area of the Brezovica mountain – part of the Shar Mountain range – have stood against the Kosovo government and private companies that have already placed concrete channels and tubing to capture the Lepenec river.
Hydropower dams carry a strong allure in Albania where about 70% of the electric power supply is generated by rivers. Numerous hydropower projects are planned or ongoing there and have resulted in protests that aim to prevent the imminent disruption of the ecosphere.
Construction of dams requires clearing of vast forested areas for the purpose of developing accumulation. According to the CIA World Factbook, Macedonia is in the top-ten of European countries by the size of surface area covered in forests.