BELGRADE (Serbia), January 29 (SeeNews) – Some 5,000 people have taken to the streets in Serbia's capital Belgrade on Sunday to protest against the planned construction of about 850 hydro power plants across the country, the campaign organisers said.
Citizens called for a halt to all hydro power projects in Serbia and those for small hydro power plants in particular, according to a statement posted on Monday on the website of the "Save the Blue Heart of Europe" campaign, co-ordinated by NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur.
The permission granted by the Serbian government for the construction of 60 small hydropower plants in the Stara Planina natural park sparked intense opposition across the country. Recently, the court cancelled the permits for these projects.
"The people of Serbia and other Balkan countries are fed up with the politicians and corrupt systems stealing their rivers and water and then selling it as climate protection. The protest in Belgrade was very motivating for all those who advocate for the protection of the rivers in the Balkans. The Blue Heart of Europe beats between Slovenia and Greece, hosting the most valuable rivers and the most unique biodiversity on the continent. However, 3,000 planned hydro power projects put the entire region at risk," Ulrich Eichelmann from Riverwatch said in the statement.
Serbia's government has identified 850 potential sites for the construction of small hydro power plants under public-private partnership schemes, which would allow the country increase the stake of renewable energy in its power mix to 27% and meet some of the criteria set out in Chapter 15 - Energy and Chapter 27 - Environment of its talks for joining the European Union (EU).
Last year, a Serbian government official said the Environment Ministry has drafted a law to ban the construction of hydro power plants in protected areas which will be proposed for adoption by the Parliament at the beginning of 2019.