Industria hidroenergjetike në Selenicë

Background on environmental problems and disputes

As of the data of end 2017 there were 183 concession agreements signed by the government for construction of 524 hydropower plants (HPP). The highest number of these HPP as small ones (mainly pipe ones) licensed during 2002-2016. Out of 524 planned HPP, 177 are already operational and licensed by the Energy Regulatory Entity (ERE), 43 of them are under construction and 364 others are planned by the energy ministry.

The current development of the HPP is conflicting with the objectives of biodiversity protection set out in the National Strategic Policy for the Protection of Biodiversity in Albania 2015‐2020. This unbalanced development of HPP is expected to result in adverse consequences such as the loss of habitats and biodiversity species, deforestation, water scarcity and erosion. The current development practice is not in line with several international agreements regarding environmental protection that Albania is a signatory of. Consultations with the stakeholders during concession phases is not undertaken. The consulting the local governance and community during the concession or development consent phase is mostly nonexistent, although the laws on Right to Information and the on Notification and Public Consultation are adopted.

Hydroenergy is causing environmental accumulative damages due to the construction of an increasing number of HEC in one river. The small hydropower plants in Albania are mostly “Run-of-the River” type of installations. Most schemes require in-channel barriers or weirs. Based on the Law on Integrated Management of Water Resources, article 39: - Each water user is obliged to allow in the natural course minimum ecological flow, not including it in the amount of water he is authorized to use. - The amount of minimum ecological flow for each natural water body would be determined according to basin management plans and other legal and sub legal acts, based on the specific characteristics and natural and ecological values that the water basin has. - Regardless of the amount of ecological flow that is defined in basin management plans, it cannot be less than 355 days a year (Q355). However, there are a lot of cases when dry river beds are noticed in the rivers where HPP plants are installed.

The environmental permit required for this type of activity is: Preliminary EIA approval. The consultation process starts only during the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure, but the procedure itself is very formal and not effective enough to influence the project design. In most of the cases the respective national legislation for public consultation during the environmental decision making is either ignored or infringed.

Hydropower plants of the type “Run of the River” cause the following environmental impacts:

a) Placement of weirs hinders the downstream movement of sediments, organic matter, nutrients, aquatic species and propagules; the upstream and downstream movement of fish (e.g. trout, cyprinides) is disturbed, preventing access to spawning or feeding grounds and threatening life-cycle completion, whether species migrate between sea or within the river; raised water levels upstream of weirs reduce flow variability, velocity and turbulence and induce fine sediment deposition, creating a lentic environment (‘weir pond); erosion downstream by the high velocity of the flow; reduction and fragmentation of natural habitats for vegetation, macroinvertebrates and fish.

b) The cumulative effect of hydropower schemes along the same river is more significant on the fish and macroinvertebrates fauna of the river, causing a depletion in population and species diversity.

Further monitoring is needed to control that the minimum ecological water flow assigned by law, is respected by each HPP.

The list below represents a list of environmental and social problems associated with the current development in the Hydropower sector[1].


[1] The impacts are assessed for all HPP – dams and long pipes

Ndikimet në mjedis

Biodiversity

Development of the HPP have a high effect in ichthyofauna, especially when fish passes are not considered in the HPP. In most of the constructed HPP there was no such passes constructed. The real biodiversity effects that lack of fishes cannot be evaluated from the spot, but the experience from EU countries shows that lack of ichthyofaunal leads to decrease of biodiversity.

Agriculture

Based on the data collected in the field visits there is an increased concerned of the local population with regards to water usage for agriculture. This aspect is not properly dealt with in EIA. Already, most conflicts regarding hydropower in Albania concern water use rights Water use rights is the main cause of conflict regarding hydropower in Albania[1].

Tourism

HPPs developments brings changes in the landscape value thus influencing directly the touristic development. Such impact cannot be valorizes, but the case of Valbona dispute the impact has been evident. International community and tourists are supporting the litigation cases.

Water use

Most of the HPP projects can affect irrigation process and potable water usage. This aspect is not analyzed/ neglected during in the EIA. Especially in the long pipe HPP developments this effect is prominent.

Changes in water flow levels

Changes on the water flow levels cause cumulative negative impacts on riverine biota. In most of the cases in Albania the set of the Environmental flow is not respected. The Mati river constructed HPP there has been cases of dry river bed reported.

Ground water recharge

It is not clear the effect of the planned HPP in the ground water recharge. Analysis is missing and there is not national institution or academia dealing with these effects. Examples from the EU countries have shown that the impact might be significant, especially the cumulative one.

Surface waters

The total length of rivers is affected by water deviation (from intake point to the powerhouse and release point). The rivers hydromorphology changes by causing significant changes in river flow and water level. This is extremely important in the dam HPP developments.

Sediment transportation

This is also an impact that is totally neglected and not researched. Blocking of the sediment transport in the river influence the sediment reach[2] into the sea which then cannot create or keep the balance of coastal erosion with sediments.

Landscape and natural heritage

Most of the constructed HPP have caused a landscape damage (cut of the trees, gravel extraction, construction wastes thrown in the environment and erosion). The natural heritage of most intervention sites is reported damaged[3].

Land properties and rights

One of the most neglected topic in the HPP development is usage and occupation of public land. In most of the cases HPP operators did occupied huger areas in the mountains and do not allow passing of the villagers/ tourists/ people. The grazing of the livestock in this cases is affected.

Public money usage

According to the “Open Data”, energy sector entail 75% of the total concessionary value with a figure of 379.4 billiard Albanian Leke.


[1] Assessment study – Identification of water related conflicts linked to hydro power projects in Albania, Milieukontakt Albania, Lex Ferend, Eco Albania, 2017[2] http://www.qualityjournalism.com.al/2018/07/04/albanian-government-continues-to-approve-new-hydropower-plants-despite-environmental-and-social-impact/ [3] https://tiranatoday.com/hec-et-ne-ndertim-jashte-standardeve-kane-demtuar-trashegimine-natyrore/

Issues and challenges coming out of the project field visit in Selenicë (HECs in Shushica tributary to Vjosa river):

There is in process the construction of a HPP in Shushica river in the area of Selenica Municipality, AUs of Kote and Brataj, by the investor Shushica sh.pk. the concerns are very high and local population is highly active against this investment. The local community has refused the consultation meetings with the investor and are fearing that this investment is causing major problems with the natural resources and their living. They are very interested to engage in learning on their rights, procedures and participate in debates and outreach activities.