Hydro-power is an energy source that has built a generally good reputation during the last century. The public sees it as a green source of renewable energy and the governments across the world support that idea. This is also the case in Europe where dams are considered as green energy and add a significant proportion to the EU’s renewable energy production. In fact, hydro-power is the number one source of renewable electricity in Europe. Hydro-power constructions have rocketed by 300% across the western Balkans in the last two years, according to a new analysis. Unfortunately, there is no free meal in the energy sector, everything comes at a cost, and the ecological cost of dams is often ignored, or at least not assessed properly. The new wave of construction is sparking fears of widespread biodiversity loss, as well as threats to the livelihood of the local communities.
A lot of the new dams are set to be built in protected areas and natural parks. Their construction can already be very disruptive to the environment, but the effects of their operation are even worse. The consequences of blocking, or slowing down the flow of rivers have a series of negative effects on the environment : coastal and riverbed erosion, biodiversity loss, direct carbon emissions and soil degradation. You will find more about each of these problems in the posts linked above and at the end of this article.
The new wave of dam construction in the Balkans is characterized by the small scale of most of the new projects. In fact, only 9 % of the new dams will be large scale projects that involve the flooding of rivers to form lakes, 91 % of the dams planned in the Balkans will have a capacity lower than 10 megawatts per hour, according to the Save the Blue Heart of Europe project. At first glance this sounds like good news, but there is a little known fact about small dams…
Below this level of energy generation there is no requirement to provide an environmental impact assessment. And while the effects of a single low capacity dam can be small, the combined effect of repeated damming along the course of small waterways can be very disruptive for the river and life that inhabits it. Without proper ecological assessment it’s hard to get a picture of the scale of the consequences that these projects will have. Environmentalists claim that this will be end for many species of fish, animals and insects.
The Blue Heart of Europe is a new movie raising awareness about the gravity of this problem. The movie and the campaign are organized by the company Patagonia, the aim is to inform the public on the threats caused by dams, and to prevent a catastrophe to happen in some of wildest places in Europe. You can learn more about the Blue Heart of Europe campaign here.
Tell our governments that we don’t see dams as the renewable energy of the future by signing this petition. Let’s make these numbers go up ! If you’re not convinced about the environmental and social risks posed by the construction of dams, check out our other articles on the subject :