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Preparation of the national spatial plan for the Hrastje-Mota hydroelectric power plant on the Mura river halted

Ljubljana, 30th May 2019 - The Slovenian government has taken the decision to halt preparations for the drawing up of the national spatial plan (DPN) for the Hrastje-Mota hydroelectric power plant on the Mura river. Following the Resolution on the Preparation of a DPN for the Hrastje-Mota hydroelectric power plant on the Mura river, issued on 16 May 2013, three alternatives were examined, all of which were assessed, in the environmental report, as having a significant impact (assessment class D).


The study addressed, evaluated and compared the alternatives in detail in terms of the spatial planning, social, protection, functional and economic aspects; it also looked at the projects in terms of their local environmental acceptability. The environmental evaluation was carried out as part of a comprehensive environmental impact assessment and an assessment of the acceptability of the project in protected areas.


Three potential locations for the hydroelectric dam structure were compared; these differed in terms of location of the damming structure and the number of power plants. Two variants involved the construction of one hydroelectric plant at two potential locations, while the third envisaged two smaller hydroelectric power plants. All the hydroelectric power plants are of the run-of-river type with power up to 55 MW and an accumulated storage volume of 4 million cubic metres. The study concluded by stating that the alternatives studied did not make it possible to achieve a good ecological status for surface waters, that it would not be possible to prevent a deterioration in their ecological status and, moreover, that the nature conservation objectives could not be met. For these reasons, all alternatives were assessed as being less suitable from the environmental point of view.

 

In July 2018, as part of the Man and the Biosphere programme and at Slovenia’s proposal, UNESCO declared the Mura River Biosphere Reserve, making it part of the global network of biosphere reserves. The aim of the reserve is to conserve nature and natural characteristics and to foster sustainable development. The parties to the comprehensive environmental impact procedure (the Slovenian Society for the Study of Fish and the Association of Societies for River Protection and Sustainable Development Along the Mura – Moja Mura) warned of the impact on the Mura, which, along with its tributaries, is one of most biodiverse areas in Slovenia and Europe, and constitutes a habitat for numerous endangered and protected plants and animal species, including some that are unique to the Mura river area. They also highlighted the negative impacts on the Natura 2000 European ecological network, and on species and habitat types.  International non-governmental organisations such as the Drava Federation and the WWF believe that Slovenia’s as-yet only preserved river valley must be protected, and are calling for international involvement. 

 


Austria, Croatia and Hungary have also submitted a request for a transboundary procedure under the international Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment. As the hydroelectric power plants are part of Annex 1 of the Act Ratifying the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, transboundary strategic environmental impact procedures would have to be carried out on material that has already been given a negative environmental impact at the national level if the procedure were to be continued, including public consultations in neighbouring countries.

 


This would not make sense for solutions that have been assessed as environmentally unacceptable. Continuation of the comprehensive environmental impact assessment procedure and preparation of the DPN would incur additional costs and administrative work, and the procedure would, taking stakeholders’ opinions into account, end with a negative decision on the environmental acceptability of the plan, as none of the material submitted indicates environmental acceptability of the planned solutions.

 

 

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