Montenegro's parliament opened a debate Tuesday on a contentious government plan to build a huge dam that would flood the Tara Canyon, a popular tourist destination that is part of a UNESCO world heritage site.
PODGORICA, Serbia-Montenegro − Montenegro's parliament opened a debate Tuesday on a contentious government plan to build a huge dam that would flood the Tara Canyon, a popular tourist destination that is part of a UNESCO world heritage site.
The government of this small Balkan republic says the dam is needed to end Montenegro's perennial shortage of power. Montenegro currently imports euro50 million (US$65 million) worth of electricity per year -- a hefty sum for the impoverished republic.
"No one sensible enough can say 'yes' to the flooding of the Tara Canyon, but no one wants to live in the darkness without electricity," Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said recently. "With the dam, we can solve our burning problem."
Opponents say the project would disrupt plant and animal life in the 1,300-meter-deep (4,265-foot-deep) canyon and damage Montenegro's tourism industry. Tara is popular among tourists for its trout fishing and rough river rafting.
As the debate started, some 100 environmentalists gathered in front of the parliament building in protest.
"The dam would represent a death blow for the canyon," said Sinisa Stevovic, a leader of the environmentalist Most group, which collected 11,000 signatures needed to bring the plan before the assembly.
The environmentalists say they want a nationwide referendum on the issue in case the government pushes its proposal through parliament.
The Tara Canyon -- Europe's deepest -- rises above the 82-kilometer-long (51-mile-long) Tara River in central Montenegro. It is part of the Mount Durmitor national park, which was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980.
Source: Associated Press