Continued fight for the protection of untouched rivers in Austria
J&E member group ÖKOBÜRO, together with WWF Austria, filed a final complaint to the Austrian Supreme Administrative Court regarding the permission for the hydropower plant “Schwarze Sulm”, while advocating for environmental protection and public involvement.
Only 15 percent of Austrian rivers are still in a (semi-)natural condition - at least in some sections. The “Schwarze Sulm”, an untouched alpine wild river in Styria, is one of them. However, a hydroelectric power plant is to be built in the middle of this Natura 2000 area against the protest of the local population.
It is undisputed that the use of hydropower is essential to achieve the Austrian climate targets. However, the destruction of one of the last intact rivers is out of proportion to the comparatively low energy gain that the power plant would achieve. WWF water experts also assume that the project will lead to a considerable deterioration of water status. However, such deterioration and the possible effects on the ecosystem have never been sufficiently assessed during the authorisation procedure. This is, inter alia, due to the fact that the permitting procedure is on-going since 2007 with several significant changes to plans, leading to a completely different project than originally evaluated. Environmental organisations have been trying to achieve participatory rights ever since, which were finally granted by a 2019 ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court.
Relevant expert opinions and planning documents of the power plant were withheld from the environmental protection organisations involved. In the opinion of ÖKOBÜRO, this constitutes a violation of the party status confirmed by the relevant ruling. Now, supported by the Green Alternative Association for the Support of Citizens' Initiatives, ÖKOBÜRO, together with WWF Austria, filed an extraordinary final complaint to the Administrative Court.