Montenegro: Construction of HPP Moraca raises fierce community opposition

30. January 2017. / SEE Energy News

Planning the construction of power plants in the canyon of Moraca River is followed by some kind of total conspiracy. Actions that would destroy some of the most important cultural and natural resources of Montenegro shall be subject to review.

At the end of 2016, the Government of Montenegro adopted a document according to which it plans to build eight hydropower plants on Moraca River in cooperation with the Chinese company “Norinko”. Five of HPPs are planned to be built on the main stream of Moraca River and three on its tributaries (Mrtvica, Sjevernica and Mala Rijeka). The implementation of the project for the construction of large hydropower plants was announced as an attempt to increase energy capacities and potential of the country, as well as to reduce transmission losses on the electrical grid.

However, it is clearly stated in the Concession Act that the company that is granted a concession will have the right to export electricity produced on these dams. In addition, it is a public secret in Montenegro that the main purpose of this project is to export electricity via underwater cable to Italy, which was once confirmed by the Italian Minister of Economic Development, who said that thousands of kilowatts of electricity will be transmitted between Montenegro and Italy under the Adriatic Sea, and that it would help electricity supply in Italy.

So far there have been numerous criticisms and insinuations regarding this project, from the statement that the government does not care about the interests of citizens in this project, but it has some deals with representatives of foreign interests in the country, to the warning that the implementation of such project would completely devastate wildlife in Moraca canyon, and thus permanently destroy the climate in Montenegro, and it would represent a mortal threat to one of the most important monuments of spirituality and culture – Moraca monastery.

The holder of the most important Montenegrin state award -Trinaestojulska award, professor dr Aleksandar Cilikov said in an interview for Sputnik that this idea is well known to him since the late 80s of the 20th century, when he was the Head of the Republic Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments.

“The institution where I worked openly opposed such project, primarily for reasons of protection of Moraca monastery, whose physical existence would be totally jeopardized with the implementation of planned works”, explains Cilikov.

Professor Cilikov recalls that 30 years ago there was a plan to construct four power plants with a water reservoir whose level would be several meters below the plateau where the Moraca monastery is located.

“During the fight against the construction of power plants, among other things, a meeting was organized on my initiative with directors of all state institutions for the protection of natural resources from the ex-Yugoslav region, which has resulted in a unique conclusion that with the contruction of the reservoir, the Moraca monastery would be in a position of total destruction of extraordinary monument and civilizational values. Fortunately for the nature protection specialists and a number of intellectuals from the country and abroad, the idea of ​​hydro power plants construction  was abandoned and I was convinced that the physical integrity of a famous spiritual, political and artistic center was secured for all times”, says Cilikov.

But as our interlocutor admitted, it seems that he himself was mistaken because, according to the latest information from the media,  there is a plan to construct eight  hydro power plants in Moraca canyon, with no indication which projects will be implemented and what kind of accumulations are predicted.

“If one would wonder why the relevant experts are so much concerned about the Moraca monastery complex, the answer is very simple. Moraca, founded in the mid-13th century, cannot be considered only as the local cultural resource because with its historical and artistic, and even civilizational significance it deserves the status of a world heritage on the UNESCO list just like a medieval Kotor”, says Cilikov.

In the context of the planned HPP implementation project, in addition to Moraca monastery according to our interlocutor it is necessary to mention the threat from destruction of one extraordinarily important natural environment with potentially significant archaeological sites and specific eco-system.

“In conversations with a number of experts my attention was drawn to the possibility of destruction of plant and animal species, the probable seismic issues and irregularities that will affect the functioning of Skadar Lake, and many other accompanying deviations”, specifies professor.

“With no intention to offend anyone, especially not on the political level, I have the impression that the planning of HPPs construction in Moraca River canyon is followed by some kind of total conspiracy, which is not desirable in any case. Actions that would destroy some of the most important cultural and natural resources of Montenegro, as I am deeply convinced, must be reviewed and considered by a number of experts, political entities, the intellectual elite, non-governmental and environmental organizations, as well as all social levels of the Montenegrin society”, says Cilikov .

In doing so, he adds, “all discussions must be unburdened by any political, confessional and nationalistic implications because it is about the fate of universal values.”

“After the public is fully informed about the type and method of HPPs construction and opinion from experts of relevant fields is provided, given the importance of this issue, the final decision would be closest to justice if it is adopted on a referendum,” concludes Cilikov for Sputnik.

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