The global environmental organisation WWF, backed by 150 non-governmental organisations across Europe, has called on European Union leaders to stop financing new hydroelectric power plants with public funds in order to protect biodiversity.
"The European Commission and European financial institutions have for years granted loans for harmful projects of building hydropower plants. If they continue with bad investments, they will directly undermine the ambitions set out in the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the objective to restore 25,000 kilometres of rivers by 2030," said Zoran Mateljak, manager of the freshwater programme at WWF Adria.
It is necessary to urgently remove the existing financing models and subsidies for new projects of building hydropower plants, focus on meeting the objectives of the Framework Waters Directive and support the European Green Deal, he said.
It is high time the hydroenergy sector started investing in the ecological restoration of the existing capacities and in the revitalisation of rivers, he added.
Following World Fish Migration Day, observed on October 24, non-governmental organisations, including Croatian environmental organisations Green Action, Udruga Sunce and Zeleni Osijek, have signed a manifesto calling for an end to all forms of stimulating the construction of new hydropower plants, regardless of their size.
They want the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to stop financially supporting all new hydropower plants in Europe and to remove all new hydropower plants from the lists of renewable energy sources that qualify them for state aid.
The signatories recommend redirecting investment funds to projects aimed at increasing energy efficiency and increasing investment in acceptable renewable energy sources such as the sun and the wind, while respecting transparency, including the public and reducing the negative impact on the environment and people.
The latest initiative comes just months after a study has shown that since 1970 ninety-three percent of freshwater migratory fish in Europe has disappeared as a result of, among other things, the construction and operation of hydropower plants.
More than 20,000 people have expressed their support for the preservation of free-flowing rivers by signing the WWF's regional petition to stop the construction of small hydropower plants in the Balkans.