The decisions to construct hydropower plants in the area of Librazhd have been taken considering the environmental permits, while project designs have been modified during implementation phase. The environment experts raise their concern on the environmental havoc cause to the rivers, calling for intervention of the government.
By Avushe Zhuka
The concessions granted for the construction of hydropower plants in Albania cast light on the abuses and corruption that have accompanied this process. More specifically, the website ‘investigim.al’ focuses on HPP concessions in the area of Librazhd where more than 87 HPP permits are counted, 47 out of which are in the Shebenik- Jabllanica national park. The decisions to construct the HPPs were taken before issuing the environmental permit, while there is no report on their monitoring. The technical drawings and construction designs are amended changing the initial project. These facts were disclosed by environmental after they managed to review various documents, decisions, environmental permits, etc. In addition, the State Superior Audit (SSA) final report on the audit performed in the former Ministry of Economy, Trade and Energy (now the Ministry of Energy and Industry), focusing on “the Concessions compliance and economic & financial soundness” undoubtedly confirms that that there are documents missing related to HPPs; there are problems regarding the supervision of hydro-power facilities and of utilization of water resources, too.
Based on observation in situ, it results that the criteria of environmental permit are not implemented during the construction of HPPs. It is the authorities who have permitted such environmental havoc in these rivers- the natural river bed has been deviated, the vegetation and trees along the river have been devastated.
A similar example is that of Rapuni HPPs which are constructed on the River Rapun. The concession rights of HPPs Rapuni 1 and Rapuni 2 were taken over by “C & S Construction Energy”, under Council of Ministers Decision No. 717, dated 14.05.2008. The investments amount of these two HPPs is 749,080,000 ALL / 5,467,737 EUR. The decision to license the “C&S Construction Energy” for the generation of electric power was taken by the Board of Commissioners of Albanian Energy Regulatory Entity (ERE) 2 years later, on 21.04.2010. The latter decided to license the “C&S CONSTRUCTION ENERGY” for the generation of electrical power in HPPS Rapuni 1 & Rapuni 2.
Furthermore, in 2009, it was decided to issue the permit for the construction of Rapuni 3 HPP. Meanwhile, a few months earlier, on 02.05.2015, the Council of Ministers decided to approve the construction permit for the “construction of HPPs Rapuni 3 and Rapuni 4” in the watercourse of River Rapun, Centre Commune, Librazhd, Elbasan Region, with applicant the concessionaire “C&S Energy”.
The environmental permit for the construction through concession of HPPs Rapuni 3 and Rapuni 4 was approved on 16 May 2013. This Decision establishes clearly the term of the permit for a period of 2 years. It also provides that in case the works do not start within a period of 2 years, the permit to exercise such activity shall be considered null and void. It is obvious that this was the reason why the Government decided to approve the construction permit for 2 HPPs only 11 days prior the expiration of term.
The fact that such permits were issued without duly informing the community is another problem. During the period when the first construction permits of HPPs in the area of Librazhd were issued, the community was not informed on the consequences and risks.
“- At the time of designing the construction drawings for these HPPs, the rules on protection of environment were weak because it was a new phenomenon,”- said Mr. Molnar Kolaneci, water resources expert.
The experts argue that water resources with the construction of HPPs risk to be over exploited. The lack of compliance with the concession contract terms and conditions, especially on the ecologic water, has been raised as an issue by the community that is complaining on the over-exploitation of water resources and thus making the inhabitants lifestyle worse. The leader of a village, affected by the construction of power plants, says that: ‘The residents have not been consulted; it was the Municipal Council that has signed the respective documentation. At that time there were not aware of what they were signing. They were not aware of the danger threatening the community by over-using water without any criteria.
From the documentation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) permit process, there is no evidence of meetings held or consultations processes with the inhabitants and the stakeholders about the HPPs. The HPPs construction permit has been given in the whole area of Librazhd, while there is not water supply utility to supply inhabitants of these areas with potable water. SSC in a letter of 10.02.2014 recommends to the Minister of Energy, Mr. Damian Gjiknuri that: “the national strategy should be reviewed by the Ministry of Energy and Industry in cooperation with its depending structures to resolve the problem of the exploitation of water resources, its usage without impacting the life and everyday activities of the citizens and ,also, with respect to environmental aspects and regional agreement of water exploitation, a request even by the law ‘On concessions and public-private partnership’’.
He also added that: “The strategy should also include monitoring and supervision of these concessions in order to have a thorough view upon the energy acts given with concession and their progress so that the realization of every competitive procedure having taken with concession the national water resources in order to take advantage of electric energy and the improvement of Albanian hydroelectric supply system, proposed by private entities in the territory of the Republic of Albania not to result in a failed undertaking.”
The water expert, Mr. Molnar Kolaneci argued that: “The observation of ecologic water has been orphaned and it is not explicitly stated in the respective decision-making whose duty it is. The problem of water for irrigation is monitored by the inhabitants themselves, who in collaboration with the local government and the authority of the basin take decisions that are obligatory for the investor. From some controls, results that in the activity of the HPPs, as far as ecologic water is concerned, investors do not pay attention to it. The situation ends up as far as, the latter privatizing the river and hence not allowing monitoring to be carried out. This is one of the severe problems that the government should take measures.”
According to experts, the procedures of giving the environmental permits have been violated, which have been simply used as documents to support the technical drawings. The decision for the concession had been given before taking the environmental permit. The expert of environment, Mr. Gavrosh Zela explains that the legislation for the protection of the environment and the law for permits of environment sanctions that for every activity, which needs environmental permit, the EIA report and the provision with environmental permit is to be done beforehand and it is a preliminary condition for gaining other permits for the development of an allocated activity.
Regarding the Rapuni HPPs documentation, he states that the EIA report was drafted after the preparation of the technical drawings. According to Mr. Zela, the report was considered as a simple document to support the technical drawings and not as a document that helps to highlight, mitigate or to eliminate the impacts on the environment. Mr. Zela, also stated that: “this report does not treat nor highlight the cumulative impacts generated by the use of the whole river cascade to construct all the planned HPPs. In the report, the impact on the biodiversity of the area (the biodiversity of the river bed, flora and fauna) by the construction of these facilities or the impact that will have on the decrease of water flow for the wildlife or the vegetation of the area are not been clearly resolved nor described.”
The experts raise the issue of the risk that is threatening the environment from the non-implementation of the permits and their terms. The conditions of HPPs Rapuni 1 and Rapuni 2, where the works have already started, are really worrying. The river bed has been completely diverted; the all the water flow goes to the penstock drying up a part of the river bed, while no measure is taken to rehabilitate the river bed. Mr. Zela stresses that in the EIA report, the impacts on the typical users of the water flow have not been foreseen (mills, amateur fishers, the community, tourist operators, irrigation channel, surface of land where irrigation is affected).
Based on the landscape monitoring, the characteristic vegetation alongside the river is destroyed (willows, plane trees etc.). It is also observed kilometers of the river bed were totally dried up without the minimum ecologic flow needed. He added that there were not seen any fish or frogs, typical for a river. He adds that, based on some monitoring in situ, from the documentation found for HPPs of Rapuni 1, 2, 3 and 4, it is found that technical drawings and the the works have been modified and have not been constructed according to the initial concession and environmental permit taken by the entity. According to him, the reason why the initial projects were subject to changes and modifications was that, from the very first moment the necessary studies were not carried out and it was intended to use at maximum the water resources of the river.
Indeed, such problem is raised also in the SSC report, auditing the file documents, after the concession contract has been signed, the approval of changes to the construction design has been ascertained in many cases, justified that it was done with the purpose of optimizing the works and improving the capacity and hydro-technical indicators.
The SSC audit report states that: “From the audit of the concession contracts for the construction of HPPs it has been ascertained that, with the ratification of the modified construction designs, the annual electric power production has been reduced, this in contrary with the law no. 9663, dated 18.12.2006 ‘On concessions’, as amended, the EIA no. 27, dated 19.01.2007 ‘On the ratification of the rules for the assessment and granting of concessions’, as amended with the procedures of the competition and the announcement of the winners.”
From the audit of the documentation in the files of the concessions for the construction and the exploitation of HPPs, it has been noticed that the concessionaires are not submitting information for the realization of the value of investments. The installments for the works performed, tax and customs bills are missing; the balance sheets of the concessionaire company for their annual activity etc. are not submitted either. In addition, records for the initiation of the works or records of observers over the works done are also missing. SSC suggests: “the lack of documentation impedes the real evaluation of the investments performed bringing thus the impossibility of the estimation of the penalties from the contract authority. The Ministry of Energy and Industry in collaboration with the National Agency of Natural Resources should reconcile with the concessionaires, the filling with the legal, technical and financial documentation which has and should contain the file of the concessions and based on the conclusions to estimate the penalties.”
The Rapuni HPP concessions were granted the company “C&S Construction” which results to be under the possession of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania. The latter possesses 100 % of the shares of the company “Energjia Ekologjike” (Ecologic Energy) which operates in the field of producing renewable power. The Church owns 100 % of the shares of the BOT contract (Build-Operate-Transfer) for the construction of power plants “Rapuni 3” “Rapuni 3A” and “Rapuni 4” in the area of Librazhd. The contract is signed under the name of the concessionaire company “C&S Energy”. 98 % of the latter’s shares are possessed by the company “Eko Vepra” (Eco Work), whose sole shareholder is the company “Energjia Ekologjike” (Ecologic Power) and 2 % are possessed by another company. It also results that the administrator of the company “Energjia Ekologjike” and that of the “C&S Energy” is the same person. Even the HPPs of Rapuni 1and Rapuni 2 appears to be possessed by the company under the control of the Orthodox Church.
In the annual report of Albanian Energy Regulating Entity, it is reported that in 2014, the power production of the company “C&S Construction Energy” from the Rapuni HPP, with an installed capacity of 4.00 Mw, for 110kW, is 33. 958 MWh.
The concession of Rapuni 1 and Rapuni 2 was granted to the company “C&S Construction” under Council of Ministers Decision no.717, dated 14.05.2008. The intensity placed is 8,250 KW, whereas the power is 44,650,000.
In 2009 the Council of Ministers decided to grant the concession of Rapuni 3 to “C&S Construction”, while the date of opening the bids was 22 June 2009. The value of the investments for these works is 790,361,250 ALL or and 5,769,060 EUR. The intensity placed is 9,000 KW and the power is 55,066,000. From 2007 till 2013 there have been given in total 164 concession contracts for 435 HPPs. The value of this investment climbs up to 345,087,515,245 ALL, the intensity 1,930,927 KW and the power produced 8,058,883,403.
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