At least 140 out of 170 small hydropower plants in BG are illegal
The hydroelectric power plant (HPP) under Bebresh dam was built in 2014 and before that Botevgrad had had no problems with water supply. Pencho Pandakov, an expert hydrobiologist and a member of Balkanka Association, said this in radio broadcast “Horizon till Noon”. "Since it was built, Botevgrad has had problems with providing drinking water," he said.
A report from the Sustainable Energy Agency shows that energy was purchased from the Bebresh Hydroelectric Power Plant and a profit was made of it. This proves the HHP has worked. The reason it has not worked for the whole year is the fact that throughout the year the Bebresh dam is less than half its volume, i.e. it's kept at a very low level, which is absurd due to the fact that it's an annual equalizer, it should be full every spring so that it can meet the needs during periods of low water, "the specialist added.
Last year was an average humidity year and drought should not have caused a dam such as Bebresh to be at such a low level, Pankov said. “Some companies have been given rights to use water which is in conflict with the public interest. We suspect there is another reason – water theft”, he commented. "Unfortunately, we cannot prove it because the dam is not included in the list of dams of national importance and the data on its volumes are not published on the ministry's website. But it is not possible for the Bebrash Dam - one of the dams that fill up fastest since it is not so large, to not cover its capacity in an average humidity year. At the same time the water consumption is not that high - at least the reported one. It is certainly a question of a huge theft of water.”
“We have been working for 7-8 years on the topic of hydroelectric power plants, we have tracked what is happening and we have found violations and irregularities wherever we dug up. Most were built illegally”, he stressed. Balkanka has issued signals but in his words "everything is swept away" by the prosecutor's office and has reached no result. Many of the HPP water use permits were issued unlawfully by the competent authorities - the Basin Directorates, Pencho Pandakov claims. "They are in breach of the river basin management plans, the Water Act, and some of the protected area plans," the expert said. "There are almost no random people owning hydro power plants, there are politically bound figures, in some way close to the parties and in practice, we are observing a process of undermining of our institutions and turning them into an instrument for legitimizing the misuse of public resources,” comments the hydrobiologist.
It has often occurred to me lately that after reporting violations to our control authority, the latter do not respond and even inform the offenders so as they cannot be caught”, said Pencho Pandakov. He said they had carried out inspections and had repeatedly caught hydropower plants in breach, while the relevant basin directorate had never detected such a breach.
The Balkan Club is not against the extraction of energy from water bodies but insists that the process be implemented in accordance with regulations and that the laws be observed.
"Since 2000 about 170 small hydropower plants have been built, with 140 of them being proven to be illegal. I don’t say the others are built lawfully. There are single good examples, they can be seen on our site. There is a platform for monitoring the hydroelectric power plants but for the bigger part it is a question of a lack of control and of various attempts of the institutions to mask and legitimize proven violations", said Pencho Pandakov.
“Any abuse that is not punished leads to a new, greater abuse in the future and vice versa”, he noted.