This brochure deals with the issue of ecological (minimum) flow. It is a comparative study, not only of how the minimum flow is defined in the legislation of the selected member states, but also how it is implemented and supervised in practice. In a time of progressing climate change and more frequent occurrence of extreme hydrological conditions – floods and dry periods – this issue will become more and more important. The brochure focuses on the six selected states of the European Union: the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, and France.
Downplaying impacts in the planning phase
Small hydropower plants are rarely subject to a full environmental impact assessment. In some of the Balkan countries a shorter environmental study is required but not a full EIA, even in cases of controversial projects located in protected areas, even national parks (e.g. the Lengarica HPP in Albania).
In some cases, fish passes are missing or significantly inadequate. But even if they are appropriately designed, they do not function without some residual flow being maintained.
In most cases even minimum requirements are not being followed: growing evidence around the Balkans shows that operators often put the whole river into pipes.
The impacts of ancillary infrastructure such as access roads, transmission lines, and tunnels are often neglected. The impacts are under-reported in environmental impact studies and in any case are limited to the construction phase impacts.