Run-of-river hydropower: Two years on, the struggle continues

More than two years on, the public and citizens across the Balkans fighting for the right to water and against run-of-river small hydropower plants are not giving up on their struggle. Protests and actions were organized from July 6 to 16 across the region, with a conference titled “Rakita – the rule of law crushed” to be held in Belgrade tomorrow.

In the village of Rakita on Mt. Stara Planina in Serbia, inspectors banned the investor from proceeding with the construction of the Zvonce run-of-river small hydropower plant (SHPP) and ordered the removal of pipes from the riverbed, but the works continue regardless.

The issue will be addressed in Belgrade tomorrow, at a conference titled “Rakita – the rule of law crushed,” with the media and the public to be informed about the latest developments in Rakita and the illegal resumption of works to lay pipes for the Zvonce mini hydropower plant despite the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s decision ordering the removal of pipes from the Rakitska riverbed.

The lack of reaction from the authorities concerning the failure to implement the effective decision can lead to an escalation of conficts, placing the environment and people in jeopardy, according to the organizers – Civic Initiatives, the Defend Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina movement, and Savski Nasip.

“When we say the rule of law, this should mean a state where laws and regulations are observed and their violation sanctioned. In Rakita, however, the investors building the SHPP are obviously allowed to violate the law with impunity, without any of the authorities lifting a finger to resolve the problem. They are playing the ‘Not it’ game,” Teodora Zahirović of Civic Initiatives told Balkan Green Energy News.

The “problem” may be an insufficient word to describe the environmental disaster that the SHPP’s construction can cause, as stated in reports and analyses of the Defend Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina activists, says Zahirović.

“Meanwhile, the residents of Rakita are forced to defend the remnants of the rule of law with their bodies practically, and the rule of law has not only collapsed, it has been almost completely destroyed. The threats and attacks on the locals who have been bravely and resolutely fighting against the SHPP have lately grown to such extents that the residents say they are afraid to walk through the village alone in the evening. The basic freedom of assembly and right to protest have been drastically violated in Rakita. The rule of law means securing these basic freedoms,” Zahirović says.

Read more on the website of Balkan Green Energy News

Drought warning: Could eastern Germany run out of water?

Agriculture is already affected by an ongoing draught in Germany, but what about personal water supplies? Experts weigh in on what can be done to minimize the problem.

Turn on the tap - and nothing comes out? Around Germany most people know this only from burst pipes or repair work. But in the second dry summer in a row - and following record-breaking temperatures in June - regions like Lusatia in the eastern German state Brandenburg face a problem: If it continues to rain so little, water supplies could become scarce. 

This is completely new for Germany, which has led authorities to look to places like California and China which have been grappling with drought for a long time.

"So far, water stress has not been a relevant issue for us," says Jörg Rechenberg, a water expert at the Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

"The noticeably prolonged drought in the summer of 2018 makes not only scientists and authorities, but also the general public, aware that water scarcity is a problem or can at least become one. Distribution disputes, for example between water suppliers and agriculture, are already foreseeable.”

The situation cannot be overlooked: the Elbe and Oder rivers running through eastern Germany carried so little water, even before the start of summer, that sandbanks and rocks were left exposed.

In the middle of Magdeburg, ships could no longer moor at the beginning of July; in Dresden, freight traffic on the water was no longer possible as the Elbe River lost 50 centimetres of water in three days.


How Privatisation Undermines the Human Right to Water and Sanitation

Access to safe water and sanitation has long been internationally recognised as a basic human right, essential for life. But when water becomes a marketable commodity rather than a public good, it is inevitable that human rights are undermined.

End Water Poverty has consistently highlighted the importance of accountability to achieving the human right and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water and sanitation. This raises a fundamental question: What happens to the human right to water and sanitation when a government hands accountability to a private corporation?

In September 2018, the United Nations released a groundbreaking report highlighting the detrimental effects of privatisation on human rights and the poorest in society. Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights criticised the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the UN for aggressively promoting the widespread privatisation of basic services, and governments for undermining human rights.

Read more on the website of End Water Powerty

Zurich voters veto water supply privatisation

February 10, 2019

Plans by the Zurich cantonal government to allow the partial privatisation of water utilities and to give private land owners a greater say in river and lakeshore use have failed to win voters’ approval.

Official results show 54.6% of voters in canton Zurich defying recommendations by the main centre-right parties and the business community.

The political left, supported by environmental groups, had challenged a decision by the cantonal parliament last year that allowed for private citizen involvement in maintaining the water supply. Challengers warned that the law was paving the way for multinationals to commercialise the use of drinking water.

Opponents also argued that the amended law would undermine nature protection and limit public access to lake shores.

The campaign ahead of Sunday’s ballot was marked by controversy between the canton’s political parties, which are gearing up for next month’s parliamentary elections in canton Zurich.

News from SwissInfo

Hydropower projects on the Vjosa: Bern Convention opens case-file against Albania

Strasbourg, Radolfzell, Vienna - December 3, 2018

The Bern Convention decided to open a case-file and called on the Albanian government to halt the hydropower plant projects on the Vjosa River. Instead, the government should prepare appropriate strategic environmental impact assessments and additional studies to evaluate the environmental impacts of the projected hydropower plants. The Vjosa is one of the very last unspoilt rivers of Europe. As part of the campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”, environmental NGOs EuroNatur (Germany), Riverwatch (Austria) and EcoAlbania fight to protect the Vjosa.

The Bern Convention is among the most important nature conservation agreements in Europe. Accordingly, the decision is a moment of joy for EcoAlbania, who had filed the complaint. “The Vjosa river network is really unique and of pan-European value. Now we and the representatives of the Bern Convention have to keep a very close eye on what steps the Albanian government will take to implement the twelve recommendations adopted by the Standing Committee”, says EcoAlbania CEO Olsi Nika.

Read more on the website of Save the Blue Heart of Europe