The Lukovo Pole Renewable Energy Project (LPREP) on the Korab mountain range in Northwest Macedonia was proposed by JSC ELEM in December 2010. LPREP is part of bigger ELEM Vardar Valle project. LPREP will divert water from the Radika River and its tributaries through three existing Macedonian Hydro Power Plants: “Vrben” (a run-of-river plant upstream of Mavrovo lake), and “Vrutok” and “Raven” (dam-storage plants downstream of the lake). Namely, the water from Korab catchment will be transferred to Lukovo Pole storage and Crn Kamen River via a 20 km long pipe system. The storage will be generated by construction of a 70 m high dam at Lukovo and would have capacity of about 39 million m3. Besides, the LPREP includes construction of new small hydro-power plant Crn Kamen of about 5 MW. Total energy generation from this project is expected to be 160 GWh/year. The LPREP’s main investor JSC ELEM was granted with a World Bank loan. The World Bank explains its involvement in the project due to the importance of increasing Macedonia’s reliance on renewable energy.
As the LPREP project is situated in the territory of the Mavrovo National Park, the Macedonian environmental CSOs claim the project will negatively impact on the Dlaboka Reka (one of the Radika river tributaries) whose valley is characterized as a fragile ecosystem of unique ancient beech forest, while the storage will cover parts of alpine meadows important in terms of plant biodiversity. Besides, the project will disturb the habitat of the only remaining population of the endangered species of the Balkan lynx (Lynx lynx ssp. Balcanicus). According to CSOs, during the Project preparations, the locality in NP Mavrovo where the HPP is planned to be constructed was downgraded from a strictly protected area (no activities allowed) to an “area with sustainable use” ( construction allowed). In their opinion the project will violate the Law on Nature Protection, Natura 2000, and the Bern, Bonn and Rio conventions. CSOs and local villagers also criticized the lack of the public participation in the decision making process of LPREP and emphasized that the construction of the HPP Lukovo Pole will cause water scarcity in the Radika river neighboring villages, including changes in the local activities and cultural identity.
The project has an international dimension, as it would include changing the local hydrology and diverting river water from the Adriatic to the Aegean drainage basin. This has provoked fear among Albanian citizens and political opposition that the Radika River diversion might reduce the flow of water to their HPPs. Several protests of “Alliance against the diversion of the river” have been organised in front of the Albanian government in Tirana asking from their ministry of foreign affairs to explain the case. According to the opposition, the project violates the current legal framework -the river Drim contract- signed by Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Kosovo and Montenegro in 2011. In December 2015, the WB withdrew its funding for the HPP Lukovo Pole.