From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published April 15, 2010 12:28 PM

The Dams in Montenegro

The Montenegro government was yesterday handed a 14,764 signature petition asking it to consider alternatives to its four dam plan for the country’s second most important and most scenic River. In Montenegro, Lake Skadar - a key area for biodiversity in the Balkans - is threatened by four dams planned on the Morača River. According to some studies, the dams could strongly affect the water levels in the lake hence putting a strain on its rich fish population and negatively affecting many local families who make a living from fisheries.


Dam proponents have historically understood that dams largely improve the status of water related energy and environmental issues by, for example, producing hydroelectric power and increasing the water supply for irrigation. However, the negative impacts of dams have come increasingly more into focus. Discussion over whether dam projects are ultimately beneficial or detrimental—to both the environment and surrounding human populations—has emerged with a particular gravity following various public debates about the construction of Three Gorges Dam.

A dam changes the local environment, wildlife, sedimentation patterns, erosion patterns, local climate, and local human populations may be relocated.

The Morača River, the second most important in Montenegro, provides two thirds of the water flows into Lake Skadar, the biggest lake in the Balkans and one of the most important bird and fish habitats in the Mediterranean region, providing more than 90 per cent of fish consumed in Montenegro.

Many dams have been built in the world but always at a cost to what was there before. What is needed is as balanced approach that shows what the benefits are as compared to the potential costs.

The government study – a strategic environmental impact assessment (SEA)– was evaluated by an independent expert commissioned by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and its partner Green Home in Montenegro. The study results show that many inconsistencies appear and that this project appears to be missing a serious number of elements.

Among the most important, the effects to the population and human health are not appropriately addressed. For example, the SEA states there will be significant impacts on the population resulting from the building of the Andrijevo dam near the capital city of Podgorica which will cause loss of more than 200 buildings. The overall effects to the population and health are evaluated as beneficial by the SEA and there is no clear explanation how the adverse effects resulting from the inundation of houses will be balanced by potential positive effects (increased hydroelectric power potential and less dependence on foreign supply).

Following the handing over of the petition, WWF and Green Home representatives met with Mr. Clive Rumbold, Deputy head of the European Union (EU) delegation in Montenegro to stress that Montenegro's major infrastructure plan falls far short of EU standards on river management.

The government’s own figures show that per capita Montenegro power consumption of five times the EU average, with other studies showing transmission losses of more than three times the European rate. More than 50% of the country’s electricity demand comes from an aging and inefficient aluminum plant – KAP, which is currently undergoing serious economic difficulties. The point being made is that other infrastructure improvements could be made to reduce power needs.

Lake Skadar is one of Europe's five most important wintering sites for birds. Very rare endemic species of trout could disappear, and the fishery of Lake Skadar could shrink by 30 per cent – with a loss of some over $2 million in annual fishing revenues as a result of the proposed four dams.

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