Изградбата на малата хидроелектрана на Маркова Река | Фото: Приватна архива

Will the investors who have concessions for construction of small hydro power plants in the protected area of the new national park in North Macedonia, “Shar Mountain” give up and how much reimbursment will they require?  A year after Shar Mountain was declared a national park, there are still no answers to these questions.

Last July, when the 4th national park in North Macedonia was declared, the Minister of Environment Naser Nuredini announced there are negotiations with the investors of 7 small hydropower plants (SHPP) that are now part of the park’s territory to convince them to give up. In the past year, it was announced that only one of them, the investor of SHPP Leshochka 100 and Leshochka 101 has given up on his request, as even though there had been a decision to give the concession, an agreement hadn’t been signed, so the procedure was stopped without a request for reimbursement.

As for the remaining investors, the investor of the SHPP Pena 82, SHPP Ljubotenska 66, SHPP Vratnichka 67, SHPP Belovishka 107, stated that they are requesting reimbursement of their invested assets for meeting the agreements, but even after so much time, there still isn’t any firm agreement.

The Ministry of Environment said that the procedures for termination of the concession agreements for the small hydropower plants in the Shar Mountain national park are underway, but they won’t state precisely how long will it last or whether the ministry has sent information to the government.  There is no information about the sums that the investors have requested, nor what will happen if they are unrealistic and if an agreement isn’t reached.

“The procedures aren’t over and we cannot give any information,” was the brief answer that the ministry sent to Meta.mk’s questions.

The environmental organizations have been requesting for more than two years for the state to annul the agreements for new small hydropower plants in the protected areas and to stop giving new concessions. As an argument, they use the fact that these facilities are contributing to the national energy system with around 4.6% of the total production of electric energy. Annually they receive subsidies in the amount of over €16 million. On the other hand, the damage they cause to biodiversity is immeasurable.

According to Gjorgji Mitrevski from “Eko svest” (Eco consciousness), last year, the Berne Convention recommended annulling all approved and planned hydropower plants in protected areas in the country, but also those outside that can influence the protected areas.  One-third of the small hydropower plants in the country are located in protected areas that serve to guard and preserve systems that are important. However, the environmentalists consider that for the energy-producing facilities that are outside the protected areas, there is a basis for their annulment.

“This recomendation is clearly indicating that all concessions that were granted should be annulled for those who haven’t built small hydropower plants and those who have. The convention was ratified by the Parliament, there is a law and it must be obeyed.  Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing any kind of activity by any institution which will show that there is an action based on the recommendation even though almost 10 months have passed since then,” said Mitrevski.