100 residents of Mastorochoria villages of the Municipality of Konitsa participated at an open event organised on Saturday 22 July in Kefalochori to discuss about the impact of the planned construction of numerous small hydropower plants in the mountains of Grammos and Smolikas.
In the presence of the Mayor of Konitsa, Councillors of the Opposition Parties of the Municipality of Konitsa, Presidents of the Local Communities of Mastorochoria and dozens of citizens, the speakers, Tryphon Kolias, lawyer specialised in Environmental Law, representatives of the Assembly for the Protection of the Mountains, and Alexandra Pappa, MedINA’s Freshwater Programme Manager, talked about the licensing process of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) projects, participatory processes as tools for protection of the environmental acquis and the transnational effort between Greece and Albania for the institutional protection of the Aoos/Vjosa river basin, aiming at preventing the construction of hydropower plants in the hydrographic network of Voidomatis, Aoos and Sarantaporos.
The representatives of the Assembly for the Protection of the Mountains stressed the necessity of defending water as a common good in the light of its priceless value for humans, animals and ecosystems. They gave examples where local communities have coordinated to prevent the construction of RES projects in various areas, highlighting the importance of residents’ struggles on site to defend the commons. Lawyer Mr. Tryphon Kolias informed the attendees about the steps of the licensing process of RES projects, the legal tools available to stakeholders and individual citizens to defend their rights and the importance of their participation in decision-making for their area. Alexandra Pappa from MedINA highlighted the critical role of the participation of local communities in the efforts for institutional protection of the area, which has been carried out in the past years by a multitude of scientists and environmental institutions -international, national and local- in the framework of the campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”.
In addition, the Mayor of Konitsa, Mr. N. Exarchou, referred to the intention of the Municipality to contribute to the efforts to protect the natural environment from the unplanned development of RES projects in Konitsa, by participating in the necessary legal actions. Mr. Dimitris Sdoukos, Municipal Councillor of “Laiki Syspeirosi”, stressed the importance of timely information and participatory processes by all interested citizens. Mr. Aristides Bartzokas, Professor of Meteorology at the Department of Physics of the University of Ioannina, stressed that the need for transition from fossil fuels should be coupled with sound planning of RES without sacrificing the natural capital of the region of Epirus in the name of green development. Finally, representatives of neighbouring villages, other environmental initiatives and active citizens addressed the speakers with great interest posing important questions.
The event was organized in cooperation with the “Aetomilitsa Residents Initiative”, “Aetomilitsa Grammos Association”, “Gorgopotamos Cultural Association”, “Brotherhood of Drosopigiotes of the Municipality of Konitsa”, “Cultural Association of Kefalochori”, “Brotherhood of Kastanians of Konitsa” and “Cultural Association of Kastaniani Agios Nikolaos”.
Featured image: Aspro Rema, Grammos © David Kern/MedINA.