Neretva and Vjosa – two approaches to nature conservation

According to the Center for the Environment, a Bosnian nature conservation organisation, over 50 hydroelectric projects have been proposed along the entire Neretva River and its tributaries. Almost half of them are planned in the river’s upper reaches, wild and untouched by human activity. The Neretva is one of the coldest rivers in the world, a haven of ecosystems and rare species, from marbled and Adriatic trout to the yellow-bellied toad and the elusive olm – the blind salamander. Therefore, scientists concerned about the effects of the construction of the proposed hydroelectric power plants have organised the “Let’s Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign to protect this unique area this year. Meanwhile, according to investors, the power plants will provide electricity to Bosnia and Herzegovina and employment and income for residents.

Protecting a free-flowing river can also bring economic benefits, especially by boosting tourism activities and stopping the area’s depopulation. This is proven by the case of the Albanian Vjosa, which, at the beginning of 2023, was the first river in Europe to be declared a national park. It is one of the last wild rivers in Europe, free from dams and other artificial barriers, rich in aquatic species and wild animals, including the otter, the endangered Egyptian vulture and the critically endangered Balkan lynx. The park covers 180 km of the Vjosa River in Albania, its three main tributaries and, for example, areas at risk of flooding. More tributaries will be added over time. Previously, it was planned to build up to 45 hydroelectric power plants in this area. And you can learn more about the Vjosa phenomenon in our solutions podcast.

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