Hydro Power Plant Lešće on the Dobra River, Croatia

HPP Lešće on river Dobra continues operating despite of the fact that it has caused many negative environmental impacts as it has been brought to the attention by the civil society organisations.

Hydropower plant Lešće on the Dobra River in Croatia started operating in 2010. It was the first HPP built in Croatia after it became an independent state. As the plant would have capacity of 1% of total Croatian electricity demand (according to politicians), building this plant was one of the steps towards energy independence of the state. The project had been coordinated by Croatian national power company Hrvatska Elektroprivreda (HEP Group), while the plant was built by consortium of three Croatian companies (Končar Inženjering za energetiku i transport d.d.; Ingra d.d., and Konstruktor Inženjering). The capacity of the HPP Lešće is 42.3 MW, it produces 98 GWh per year. The Croatian Government claimed economic viability of the project as it would lower the amount of imported electricity with an estimated cost of 14 million of USD per year. In 2006, when construction work on the HPP begun, Croatian environmental organizations claimed the project would destroy of 13 km of River Dobra Canyon- fragile karst ecosystem. In order to stop the project, NGO Zelena Akcija (Green Action) organized the signing of the online petition and sent a protest letter to the Croatian Government. The NGO main argument was the fact that the project's EIA was elaborated 20 years ago, and it proposed investments in tourism activities (e.g. canyoning) instead. The local government supported the HE project considering it of great importance for the development of the region, and a source of income from the taxes paid by the HEP Group. Furthermore, local communities were satisfied as new roads have been built and water piping system installed as a part of the project. In 2012, two years after launching HPP Lešće, NGOs Pan- Karlova and Zelena akcija, fishermen, recreational users and local people reported following impacts HPP on the environment: lower water temperature negatively impacting fish reproduction; soil erosion; and flooding of surrounding fields in creation of small accumulation. NGOs pointed out that HPP produce only 1% of total electricity produced in Croatia was not enough to justify destruction of the natural area previously proposed for Natura 2000. They also asked for respect of the Law on Environmental Protection from 2007, which does not allow construction if the relevant studies of EIA are older that three year, and have demanded elaboration of the new one. The NGOs added that project contractors have used of interim period between two Environmental Laws to legalize the project. Moreover old EIA was not available to the general public. Finally, the opponents of HPP Lešće demanded from USKOK (Bureau for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime) and DORH (The State Attorney's Office of Republic of Croatia) remediation of the damage caused by the project, arguing even for demolition of the dam due to the great amount of negative effects it provoked. Nowadays, HPP Lešće continues working regularly.
Basic Data
NameHydro Power Plant Lešće on the Dobra River, Croatia
ProvinceKarlovac County
SiteTopica Lešće
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
HPP Lešće is located close to Toplice Lešće, while parts of its construction and reservoirs lay in the area of Generalski Stol, Bosiljevo and Ogulin.
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Project Area (in hectares)146
Level of Investment (in USD)130,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesHrvatska Elektroprivreda (HEP Grupa) from Croatia - Croatian state power company,
Litostroj Group from Slovenia - Construction and installation of the HPP turbines
Končar Inženjering za energetiku i transport d.d from Croatia - Partner in the consortium
Konstruktor Inženjering from Croatia - Consortium partner
Ingra d.d. from Croatia - Consortium partner
Relevant government actorsThe Government of the Republic of Croatia; USKOK-Bureau for Combating Corruption and Organized Crime; DORH-The State Attorney's Office of Republic of Croatia
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEkološko društvo Pan – Karlovac http://eko-pan.hr, The Croatian Biospeleological Society http://www.hbsd.hr, Green Action http://zelena-akcija.hr/en, Udruga studenata biologije http://www.bius.hr, Hrvatsko herpetološko društvo –Hyla http://www.hhdhyla.hr/index.php/en/, Dravska liga http://www.dravska-liga.hr
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFishermen
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Development of AlternativesIn 2006, NGOs demanded stopping of the project, without any success. After two years of HPP operation, in 2012, the NGOs demanded recuperation of the damage caused by the project, arguing even for the dam demolition. The organisations called for respect of the new Law on Environmental Protection that accept only EIA studies not older that three years.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The HPP Lešće continues operating.
Sources and Materials

HEP potapa kanjon Dobre
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11 newspaper articles about HE Lesce
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PreDobra za tako malo struje
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Zelena akcija zove DORH zbog HE Lešće
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Voda HE Lešće stvorila osam jezera i potopila špilju Ledenicu
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Other Documents

Protest against HPP Lešće, 2006 The sign reads “Too Good for 1% of electricity” (Dobra=Good)
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HPP Lešće vs. Tourism Before and after construction of HPP Lešće, tourism capacities of the region are considerably lowered.
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Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)gmail.com
Last update02/06/2016