The landscapes of Aoos and the impact of Small Hydropower Plants through the eyes of the residents

The landscapes of Aoos and the impact of Small Hydropower Plants through the eyes of the residents

  • ΕΛ

The value of the landscapes of the transboundary Aoos river is recognised both by visitors and by official government policies, such as the recent designation of part of its catchment area as a Protected Natural Formation and Protected Landscape (Government Gazette 6679/27-11-2023). At the same time, the area is attracting many applications for Small Hydropower Plants (SHPs) as we have documented extensively. At MedINA, we believe that the people who live and those who work in an area play an important role in landscape management. In this context we collected around 50 questionnaires to capture how local people relate to their landscapes and what they perceive as threats and/or pressures on them.

The analysis of the results shows that the residents of the area are concerned about pressures on the landscapes resulting from population decline and changes in the productive character of the area, rather than due to technical works and infrastructures. Wind farms are the most serious threat from renewable energy sources to landscapes, according to their responses.

However, they appear troubled about the impact of Small Hydropower Plants on landscapes, being concerned about how they will affect their character, which many perceive as wild, pristine, with little human intervention. Although 71% agree with the need to develop more renewable energy nationally, the majority (cumulatively 43.8%) has a negative attitude towards the development of SHPs in the area.

The prevalence of adverse views on SHPs is not so much related to their anticipated impacts on the landscapes, but to the general perception of residents about their benefits and overall impacts, as well as to the balance between the two. We should note that 57% of those who have a negative or very negative opinion about SHPs generally agree with the development of renewables, although many of them point out the need for proper planning, respect for the area and the local economy, and setting some limits to their development. Another interesting point, recorded by several respondents, was the cumulative impact of renewable energy infrastructures on the landscape, which is more difficult to assess but is perceived as a threat compared to individual projects.

The absence of citizen participation in the planning and design process of these projects is also evident by the respondents’ replies to the relevant questions. 55% of the participants stated that they have not been officially informed by any authority about hydropower projects. Only nine (9) of the 49 respondents, most of whom are associated with public administration and local government, have participated in any consultation on SHPs. However, 77% of the respondents would like to participate in a consultation in the future.

With our research we seek to contribute to the wider debate on the construction of SHPs in the Aoos area, as well as to bring to the fore the views of residents regarding the planning process of activities that affect their landscapes.

Respondents’ quotes about planning and development of renewable energy infrastructures and SHPs.

The project “Landscape Public Participation Tools – LPPT” is implemented by MedINA under the Active citizens fund in Greece.
The Active citizens fund in Greece is supported through a € 15 m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014-2021. The programme aims to develop the sustainability and capacity of the civil society sector in Greece, and to strengthen its role in promoting and safeguarding democratic procedures, active citizenship and human rights. The Fund Operator for the Active citizens fund in Greece is Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow. More information: www.activecitizensfund.gr/en/.