There is information from official sources about plans of construction of 550 mini hydro power plants in the Carpathians. For example, it has been planned to construct 330 mini hydro power plants in Zakarpattia region for implementation of the Program of complex usage of water resources of Zakarpattia region, in Ivano-Frankivsk – according to different sources from a few dozens to a hundred and a half, about two dozens in Lviv and Chernivtsi regions. But what will happen to the nature after realization of such plans?
Local authorities persuade communities that construction of mini hydro power plants will bring big benefits for local population and for the country on the whole. They say in this way Ukraine will be able to gain energy independence and local population will get cheap energy and new jobs. But is this true?
Illusory “green tariff”
It is likely that the construction of mini hydro power plants became so active due to the fact that the state introduced ”green tariff” for renewable energy which means stimulation for those producing energy with no or minimal harm for the environment. The stimulation implies that this energy is several times more expensive than “usual” energy and thus it is very profitable to sell kilowatts of this “green” energy. But will this construction be really safe for the environment?
What consequences will construction of mini hydro power plants bring to the Carpathians?
Majority of projects in the Carpathians envisage construction of derivation type mini hydro power plants. In this type of hydro power plants river water is taken into a pipe and transported down for a certain distance (usually for several kilometers) and is dumped on a turbine for energy production and then the water is returned into the river. But it’s important to mention that mountainous rivers are full-flowing usually twice a year – after snow melt and after heavy rain, while hydro power plants need water all the time! Therefore, when water is taken from a river in a dry period, the river almost disappears! To install the pipe, heavy machinery is used that leaves incurable wounds on sensitive mountainous landscapes. Pipes used by slick “businessmen” are collected in the territories of former gas extraction in different regions of Ukraine. They are often dirty and old, there have been recorded cases of exceeding radiation level near them. Grates in the areas of water take-in have big partitions allowing water dwellers to fall on turbine blades where they are grinded. We should also consider the fact that the amount of produced energy is not that big.
To summarize, construction of such a hydro power plant may have the following consequences for the nature, mountains dwellers and tourists:
Change of hydrological regime of the territories where instead of rivers will stick pipes including the risk of decreased ground water levels or absence of waterin wells.
Deterioration of tourist attractiveness of territories. Some kinds of tourism, for example, rafting may totally disappear.
Decreased income of local population from tourist industry.
Increased forest logging for needs of construction, water reservoirs and pipe installation.
Extinction of water organisms (including Red Book fish and insects) because of ruined habitats and closed ways for migration to breeding locations.
The Carpathian region is one of the key tourist centers of Ukraine. The economy of the whole region is closely connected to development of tourist industry. Tourist attractiveness of the Carpathians to great extent depends on preservation of their natural landscapes, picturesque views and possibilities for sport tourist. Rafting and other kinds of water tourism occupy leading positions in tourist priorities in the Carpathians. By ruining possibilities for water sport in the Carpathians Ukraine will forever ruin tourist attractiveness of the region.
Moreover, according to the scheme of location of small hydro power plants in Zakarpattia region, it has been planned to construct dozens of huge water reservoirs just over villages! Therefore, taking into consideration the fact that every year numerous mountainous villages suffer from floods, it’s even terrifying to think what consequences will bring a dam break.
Demands of environmental, environmental law and tourist organizations:
The decisions on the location, number, construction technology of mini hydro power plants should be grounded. The issues of protection of the Carpathians nature and opinions of local population should be considered first of all. “Green” energy must be protected from attempts to turn it only into a source of profit for individuals through destruction of our common environment.
Therefore, taking into consideration a number of possible negative consequences related to construction of mini hydro plants, we demand the following from the authorities:
- To put moratorium on hasty construction of mini hydro power plants.
- To review the program of construction of mini hydro power plants on the level of the whole Carpathian region as one project in the context of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
- To review regional programs of development of small hydro energy industry and introduce necessary changes taking into consideration criteria of economic expedience and environmental stipulation of their construction and preventing usage for their construction of highly valuable in environmental terms lands: lands of natural, water and forest reserves, their placement in the vicinity of populated areas, on lands of natural reserves where they can harm biotic diversity.
- To establish strict control over compliance with norms of environmental legislation in the process of construction and operation of mini hydro power plants.
- To take into consideration opinions of local communities concerning construction of mini hydro power plants.
Web-site of the public campaign against mini hydro power plants in the Carpathians: www.pryroda.in.ua/miniges