The hydro power plant Boškov Bridge (Boškov Most in Macedonian) is planned to be a typical derivation plant constructed on the river Little River (Mala Reka in Macedonian) located in the Western areas of Macedonia, near the town of Debar and the highway Skopje-Debar-Ohrid. The waters of the river Little River will be intaken at its inflows in the river Radika 10 km upstream from its inflow into the river Crn Drim. Planned construction includes a 33 m high dam and an accumulation lake of 858 x 103m3, which would store enough water for several days from local tributaries of the Little River. HPP Boškov Bridge will have an installed capacity of 70 MW and will produce about 126 GWh per year. The project is sponsored by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
More than 80% of the HPP construction site falls within the territory of the Mavrovo National Park, the oldest, largest and most valuable protected area in Macedonia. NP Mavrovo is the last remaining untouched beech forest in the Balkans and home to the only remaining population of the endangered species of the Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx ssp. Balcanicus) (only 30-50 individuals, according to the Macedonian Ecological Society). A group of Macedonian CSOs including Eko-svest - Bankwatch member group, Front 21/42, the Macedonian Ecological Society, and two environmental coalitions "Ecology – priority" and "Natura 2000" which together gather 20 environmental organisations, have been for years advocating for the protection of Mavrovo according to the IUCN guidelines, suggesting that construction of the HPP in the National Park area is contrary to European legislation, Natura 2000 and the Water Directive Framework.
CSOs have communicated their concerns about the project’s impacts on the critical habitat of the Balkan lynx to the project sponsor EBRD. The group organised protests, public hearing and petitions against the project and collected 60 000 signatures against it.
In May 2014, Macedonian activists, with help of Bankwatch, organised a symbolic protest at the EBRD Annual General Meetings in Warsaw, where 20 tiny stuffed lynxes representing half of the remaining natural population protested for their survival in Mavrovo.
CSOs pointed out the procedural loophole of the HPP Boškov Bridge that allowed the bank's board to first approve the projects and then carry out studies on the project’s social and environmental impact. The activists have emphasized that The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study from July 2011, prepared by the Macedonian company GEING, does not provide sufficient data on the analysis of impacts of the project on mammal and bird species, for example it does not mention the impact on the Balkan lynx at all. The ESIA has not yet been approved by the Ministry of Environment. The internal body of the EBRD, verifying such complaints, found that the bank had indeed breached its own standards by approving the loan for the HPP Boškov Bridge.
The EBRD is currently revising its Environmental and Social Policy (ESP), while according to the Bankwatch, CSOs express fear that it might take this as the opportunity to actually weaken its ESP’s environmental and social criteria, that would allow for HPP Boškov Bridge to pass more easily. In December 2015, the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats sent a reply to the complaint filed by the CSOs in early 2013. The committee asked the Macedonian Government to “suspend the implementation of the hydro-power plants foreseen within the territory of the Mavrovo National Park”, and EBRD to suspend financing for the project. Such recommendations were based on a report prepared by independent experts and observers. EBRD stated they fully accepted the recommendations of the Committee and will consider the results of the new strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the HPP Boškov Most and other planned projects on the territory of Mavrovo National Park. The project opponents are sure that the results of a new SEA will not differ from the previous and that the EBRD will finally decide to drop off the financing, particularly knowing that in December 2015 the World Bank withdrew its financial support for the HPP Lukovo Pole- also planned to be constructed in NP Mavrovo.