Home Art Rush to build dams along Balkan river could threaten wildlife

Rush to build dams along Balkan river could threaten wildlife

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Joshua D. Lim

The Balkans are known as the “blue heart” of Europe for their pristine waterways. The Neretva River flows 225 kilometers from its source in the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.

Marco Secchi/Getty Images

It flows through the historic city of Mostar, one of the main tourist destinations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is renowned for being one of the coldest rivers in the world.

Ursi Seibert

However, the upper Neretva flows through a mostly uninhabited region and is a biodiversity hotspot.

Nell Lewis/CNN

This could be threatened. According to the Center for the Environment, a Bosnian NGO, more than 50 hydroelectric plants are proposed along the river, including in the untouched upper reaches. Here at the Ulog Dam site, forest has been cut down on the banks of the river to make way for a future reservoir.

Nell Lewis/CNN

A billboard in the town of Kalinovik announces the Ulog Dam. Dam proponents say the hydroelectric projects will provide income and jobs to the local community, as well as electricity.

Nell Lewis/CNN

Scientists warn that hydroelectric plants could have a detrimental effect on the region’s biodiversity. To enable the construction of the Ulog Dam, roads were cut through the dense forest so that logging trucks and other vehicles could access the site.

Vladimir Tadic

Scientists, concerned about the effects of proposed hydroelectric plants, gathered on the banks of the Neretva River in June as part of the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign.

Nell Lewis/CNN

Their mission is to collect data on the plant and animal species that live in and around the river, to help justify why the area should be preserved.

Nell Lewis/CNN

The Neretva is home to trout species, such as bull trout (pictured) and the endangered softmouth trout. Scientists say hydropower plants large and small could devastate fish populations because they block or hinder migration.

Vladimir Tadic

Changes to the river system would have ripple effects on the surrounding environment, also affecting terrestrial species in the area, like this snake.

Ursi Seibert

Butterflies that love the flower meadows near the Neretva would also feel the impact.

Linda Majdanova

The aim of the campaign is not to ban hydropower completely, but to establish no-go zones in key biodiversity areas, such as the upper Neretva.

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