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Neary 40 civil society organisations have signed a letter to EBRD and Croatian Government with a demand to cancel the construction of HE Ombla!


Neary 40 civil society organisations from whole Crotia, including the Friends of the Earth International, Bankwatch i Justice and Environment have signed a letter to EBRD and Croatian Government with a demand to cancel the construction of HE Ombla.

When the EBRD's board approved the Ombla hydropower project in November 2011 - before the project's environmental impacts had been properly assessed or publicly consulted - it did so on the condition that the project promoter, Croatian electricity company HEP, carried out an assessment of the project's impact on flora and fauna of the Vilina Cave – Ombla Spring protected area. This assessment has now been carried out and confirms that the site in question is among the most diverse such habitats in the country and beyond.

The research shows that the construction of the Ombla hydropower plant would have irreversible and long-lasting impacts on the Vilina Cave – Ombla Spring system and could permanently destroy habitats that are set for protection as part of Croatia’s future Natura 2000 network and already form part of the country's National Ecological Network. While some mitigation measures exist for certain individual species, the effectiveness of these measures are unknown, and no mitigation is possible for habitats as a whole.

To be more specific, in the study altogether 68 cave species were identified, of which almost all are endemic to the Southern Dinaric region in southern Croatia and Western Bosnia, and many are endemic to the narrower region around Dubrovnik . The study finds as many as 14 species are endemic to the Vilina Cave – Ombla Spring site alone.

However, rather than admitting that potentially wiping out tens of endemic species and destroying critical habitats means the project cannot go forward, the assessment concludes that the project will go on, garnished with some 'mitigation measures' which are almost amusing in their naïvety, such as making a new concrete cave for some of the species to live in.

Such damage might, according to Croatian law and the EU Habitats Directive, be justified - but only if the project is of overwhelming public interest. If the project brought exceptional economic and social benefits, then it could potentially go forward in spite of the damage to the environment. However the Ombla hydro plant looks set to bring neither, as civil society organisations have outlined in previous letters to the bank.

We would also like to point out that the assessment which has been carried out has not been done within the framework with the Croatian Law on Nature Protection, and thus is not part of any legal framework. It is disappointing that an international institution which claims to promote European standards has supported such piecemeal solutions in which there is now no clear legally defined procedure for taking public comments into account or on who takes the decision on approval of the study.

With the damage that the Ombla project will inflict on critical natural habitats, along with its questionable economics and the skewed consultation process to date, we appeal to Croatian Government to reject this damaging project as now there is a legal tool to do so, through the provisions of the Croatian Law on Nature Protection and European environmental legislation, that Croatia will be obliged to implement as of July 1st 2013.

Signed by:
1. Bankwatch, Praha, Czech republic

2. Brodsko ekološko društvo-BED, Slavnoski Brod, Croatia
3. Centar za građanske inicijative, Poreč, Croatia
4. Centar za mirovne studije, Zagreb, Croatia
5. Centar za životnu sredinu, Banja Luka, BIH

6. EKO – Orosavlje, Orosavlje, Croatia
7. EKO centar Zeleno Sunce, Dubrovnik, Croatia
8. EKO PAN, Karlovac, Croatia
9. Eko-Eko, Opuzen, Croatia
10. Eko-Omblići, Dubrovnik, Croatia
11. Ekološka udruga Krka, Knin, Croatia
12. ETU Šolta, Šolta
13. FADE IN, Zagreb, Croatia
14. Friends of the Earth International

15. GONG, Zagreb, Croatia
16. Građanska inicijativa "Spasimo Omblu i njezine stanovnike", Dubrovnik, Croatia
17. Hrvatsko biospeleološko društvo, Zagreb, Croatia
18. Inicijativa SRĐ JE NAŠ, Dubrovnik, Croatia
19. Institut za ruralni razvoj i ekologiju, Gradec, Croatia
20. Justice and Environment, Brno, Czech Republic
21. KINOOKUS, Dubrovnik, Croatia
22. Klub prijatelja Lokruma, Dubrovnik, Croatia
23. Koalicija udruga u zdravstvu, Zagreb, Croatia
24. Kuća ljudskih prava, Zagreb, Croatia
25. Mirovna grupa OAZA, Beli Manastir, Croatia
26. ÖKOBÜRO - Koordinationsstelle österreichischer Umweltorganisationen, Beč, Austria
27. Pravno-informacijski center nevladnih organizacij - PIC, Ljubljana, Slovenija
28. Pronatura, Bern, Switzerland
29. Speleološka udruga Vjetrenica - Popovo polje, BIH
30. SUNCE, Split, Croatia
31. Udruga Mobbing, Zagreb, Croatia
32. Udruga SMART, Zagreb, Croatia
33. Udruga za nezavisnu medijsku kulturu, Zagreb, Croatia
34. Volonterski centar, Zagreb, Croatia
35. Zelena akcija / FOE Croatia, Zagreb, Croatia
36. Zelena Istra, Pula, Croatia
37. Zeleni Osijek, Croatia
38. Ženska soba, Zagreb, Croatia

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