Podgorica says Tirana has not consulted it enough about its plans to build hydro-power plants on the pristine Cijevna River – which have angered villagers and environmentalists in Montenegro.
The Montenegrin government says it will ask Albania for more information on the planned construction of mini-hydro power plants on the Cijevna River at a meeting of the joint commission for water management on September 19.
The government on Thursday said Albania had not responded to its concerns about the potential impact of of mini-hydro power plants on the Cijevna, or Cem, in Albanian.
“Montenegro will initiate all available mechanisms defined in international conventions … that are binding on all states. This subject should be updated at the session of the Interstate Commission of Montenegro and Albania for Cooperation in Water Management,” the government said.
Albania plans to build 14 small hydro-power plants on the Cijevna, which starts in Albania but mostly passes through Montenegro. The Montenegrin Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism reacted last October after environmental activists warned that work had begun on the Cijevna riverbed in Albania, and provided footage of pipes placed in the river.
The NGOs said that mini-hydropower plants would damage its ecosystem. Environmentalists says dams will ruin one of Europe’s last free flowing rivers, disrupt fish migration routes and threaten dozens of rare species. They also say such small hydro plants produce little power.
“It’s still not clarified whether environmental impact assessment analyses have been carried out. We do not yet know the most basic information, like how many hydro-power plants will be built,” Ksenija Medenica, from the Centre for the Protection and Research of Birds in Montenegro, told the media last week.
The Montenegrin sustainable development ministry says it requested complete documentation on the environmental impact of the plans from Albania 10 months ago, and that this was recently submitted to the Montenegrin government. The documentation was submitted to the Commission for Co-operation in the Field of Water Management with Albania, established by the Podgorica government.
Both Montenegro and Albania have signed the so-called Espoo convention, a UN Economic Commission for Europe, UNECE, convention signed in Espoo, Finland, in 1991. It entered into force in 1997 and prohibits signatories from intervening in natural resources before informing neighbouring countries that these activities may affect them.
The Cievna River starts in Kelmend Muncipality in Albania and flows southwest through Montenegro for 32 kilometers. It is home to at least 22 species of fish, including the endemic marble trout and ell as well as reptiles and amphibians. In 2017, the assembly of the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, declared the Cijevna Canyon protected property as a “Natural Monument”.
This implies the sustainable use of biological resources and the prevention of any harmful activities that may threaten its biodiversity.
Many governments in the region are hurrying to build mini-hydro-power plants on rivers, partly reduce their dependance on coal and to meet the renewable energy standards set by the Paris climate change agreement. Ironically, hydro-power was once considered a “green” solution to the energy crisis.
But activists say it is destroying some of the last intact eco-systems in Europe and should be stopped. They say existing dams should be updated to generate more power and better alternatives sought, such as wind, tidal and solar power.