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Building of hydropower stations

Save the Carpathians against construction of Hydro power stations!

The Carpathians are in danger – a new and, at first glance, unexpected one. The danger is constituted by the so-called green energy objects – small hydro installations.

Although it seems that green energy cannot be a threat to the environment, judging from what is happening in the Carpathians we can argue that even the best idea under certain conditions can become a disaster.

The scale of plans for the construction of small hydropower plants in the Carpathians is frightening. For example, it is planned to build 330 small hydropower plants in the Transcarpathian region to implement a program on comprehensive use of water resources of the Transcarpathian region, according to various sources, it is planned to build from fifty to one hundred and fifty small hydro power plants in Ivano-Frankivsk region, up to two dozen planned to be built in Lviv and Chernivtsi regions. Implementation of these plans will mean the actual death of most Carpathian rivers, the death of rafting.

See hydropower plant in the Carpathian region of Ukraine in Google-Maps. Damage to the environment that many newly built small hydro power plants cause is obvious and it cannot be argued that it is insignificant.

Nowadays, most of the projects of small hydropower stations in the Carpathians include the construction of the derivational power stations. In these types of hydroelectric power stations water from the rivers is fed to a pipe, transported away through the pipe (up to several kilometers), and then it is fed from the pipe to a turbine for power generation, and then it goes back into the river down the collection place. These plants are generally considered to be less harmful to the environment than the dams since the flow is not directly obstructed by a dam. But…

In the Carpathians, most small hydro power plants are designed in the upper courses. The slope of the rivers decreases here, thus, falling water gives the highest energy return. The rivers have low water content in the upper courses, so in order to produce as much electricity as possible large amounts of water are taken from the rivers – often almost all the water is taken from the river, thus, a dry riverbed covered with stones is left instead of a live stream (Krasnyanska, Probiynivska in Hramotnyi village, etc.). Instead of a few kilometers of river we get a few kilometers of pipes. And the problem is not only about the distortion of the natural landscapes. Collection of the main part of the river water causes a number of environmental and socio-economic problems:

  • Aquatic organisms (including fish and insects from the Red List) become extinct through the destruction of their habitat and impossibility of reproduction;
  • Deterioration of the tourism potential in the areas, some types of tourism such as rafting may disappear at all;
  • Intensification of negative geological processes;
  • Changes in hydrogeological conditions including the threat of groundwater lowering.
  • Reduction in incomes of local residents that serve the tourists;- Negative impact on the protected areas.

Ukrainian government has decided to support renewable energy. The support consists in stimulation of solar power, wind power and hydropower production by the stations whose capacity is less than 10 MW (Article #1 of the Law of Ukraine “On Electricity”). Green tariff proved to be a powerful incentive for the entrepreneurs, because the state guarantees payment to the owners of hydropower plants for each produced kilowatt-hour of electricity (about 0.85 UAH), which costs several times more than the energy supplied to the consumers in Ukraine (about 0.28 UAH). The idea is that the state encourages those who produce energy without damage or minor damage to the environment. At present “green tariff” became only an economic incentive, a way to transfer budget money, while environment is still disregarded.

That is why the Ukrainian community – lawyers, environmentalists, tourists, and other concerned citizens – stood up against uncontrolled environmentally unsound hydropower development in the Carpathian region. The aim of this fight is to protect the nature of the Carpathians, conserve the Carpathians for tourism, as well as to protect the green energy from some individuals that are trying to convert it only in the tool for making money through the destruction of our common environment.

EPL participates in the campaign by :

  1. doing legal analysis of documents;
  2. providing legal consultations to participants of the campaign;
  3. raising awareness of local population and participating in information campaigns.

For detailed information please visit the blog of the campaign at http://pryroda.in.ua/miniges/info/