A battle will be fought for the zones of the “Shar Mountain” National Park
Uncertainty and information darkness plague the population living in Shar Planina Mountain, where a procedure for declaring it a national park is underway. This was shown by the field research of the team of the Institute for Communication Studies, carried out in order to identify the problems of the inhabitants of the villages that exist on the slopes of the Macedonian and Kosovo side of Shara Mountain. In order to “illuminate” this process, we also talked to scientists, representatives of non-governmental organizations, the Government, tourism workers and investors. Our findings show that there is a danger that the boundaries of the future national park proposed by the scientific community will change in order to satisfy someone’s business interests.
The Valorization Study of NP “Shar Planina” proposed and defined four areas. The largest area (230 km2) covers the active management zone, and the smallest the protection belt (1 km2). The sustainable use zone covers an area of 136 km2 (25.1%).
Due to the change of the traditional way of life in the region and, in general, the growing poverty and political instability, the natural values of Shar Mountain are strongly influenced by the human factor. This creates many threats that can lead to degradation and destruction of all natural values. The main threats are the unregulated urbanization and infrastructure (opening of roads, weekend houses, restaurants and hotels, etc.), illegal logging, reckless use of water resources (especially for generating electricity), excessive use of certain medicinal and aromatic plants and uncontrolled hunting.
The Valorization Study for Shar Mountain proposes to stop all procedures for construction of small hydropower plants in order to preserve the natural wealth of the future national park.
Source: Shar Mountain Valorization Study
It is also recommended that the impact on the protected area of all SHPPs that will continue to operate should be reviewed, and if it is assessed that they have a significant impact with consequences for the core natural characteristics of the protected area, the concession agreement should not be extend.
For this issue, we asked the Regulatory Commission for Energy and Water Services the questions how many hydropower plants are there in the area of Shara, how many of them belong to EVN, how many belong to other private companies and what is their power.
“The Regulatory Commission for Energy and Water Services does not have the specific data needed for your research because it does not keep such records. We refer you to the electricity distribution system operator, “Elektrodistribucija” DOOEL Skopje, given that the hydropower plants in question are connected to the electricity distribution system managed by “Elektrodistribucija” DOOEL Skopje. The electricity distribution system operator has the information which customers are connected to which points of the electricity distribution grid, what is their power, and in this case how much electricity they generate”, said the Regulatory Commission.
No response was received from EVN on the questions asked.
The population of this area has already shown that it is ready to defend the water resources with a human shield. On the other hand, the situation with Shara on the Kosovo, which has long been declared a national park, is proof that the usurpation of rivers continues, despite the so-called protection.
Missed opportunities lead to emigration
The scope of the future protected area – National Park “Shar Planina” mountain covers 7 municipalities in the Polog planning region: Bogovinje, Vrapchishte, Gostivar, Jegunovce, Tearce, Tetovo and Mavrovo-Rostushe. The population in this region is engaged in growing various agricultural, horticultural, cereal and other crops. Unfortunately, the young people are emigrating and the population is aging. The residents now do not know what changes the national park will bring and whether they will benefit from it.
The emigration of young people and the aging of the population are emptying the villages and municipalities of Shar Planina, for which a procedure for declaring a national park is underway.
The results and analyzes of the economic activities in the area of Shar Mountain proposed to be protected as a national park show that it has great potential for development not only at the level of the area, but also the potential to influence the regional and national development. Many of the natural values of Shar Mountain are not used, or are used in an improper and inappropriate way, destroying the biological and landscape diversity and the quality of life of the local population.
The tourist opportunities offered by Shar Planina play a great role in the development of the economy, especially in winter. The presence of ski slopes, several hotels and private villas, mostly on Popova Shapka, which is considered a tourist center of Shar Planina, provide for development of tourism and overall economic development of the region. In terms of rural tourism, in the research of landscape, the landscape of this mountain is valued with a particularly high index of visual quality due to the preserved rural appearance, which, in turn, has a high potential for development of rural tourism.
There will be no hunting, but there may be
The concessions for the seven hunting grounds on Shar Mountain will be valid until the area is declared a ‘national park’, as a protection category. However, the Law on Hunting envisages the establishment of special purpose hunting grounds in the national parks, intended for implementation of special measures for game management, in order to preserve and develop the game and its habitats.
In the houses and cafes in the settlements of Shar Mountain you can find “trophies” of stuffed wild animals such as lynx and bear, whose hunting is strictly forbidden.
This content was prepared by the Institute for Communication Studies.
Editors: Sonja Petrushevska and Valdimir Nikoloski
Journalists: Ana Zafirova, Katerina Topalova, Martin Pusevski and Kushtrim Begoli
Cameramen: Ljubomir Domazetov, Zdravko Petrusheski, Zoran Dogov, Igor Angelovski and Hezer Biklichi
Editing: Borche Krstevski and Enes Bajramlichi
Proofreading: Tatiana B. Eftimoska