Dear friends and supporters of Ohrid SOS,
UNESCO protected Lake Ohrid currently faces an ecological disaster! The new Municipality of Ohrid General Urban Plan for the 2014-2024 period includes a new marina, luxury housing, kept parks and other buildings which are to replace the natural filter of the lake – Studenchishte Marsh despite the 2015 SEA/EIA (Macedonian language only) commissioned by the Municipality of Ohrid itself and accepted and approved by the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning firmly opposing any activity near or in the Marsh. A paper in English from 2010 published in Biogeosciences lists some of the threats presented in the SEA/EIA.
Aside from destroying the Stucenchishte Marsh, the new General Urban Plan for the 2014-2024 period also includes luxury beaches to be built inside the lake which requires the destruction of a sizeable portion of the reed belt that is very well known as the spawning location for the famous Ohrid carp. Palm trees and imported sea sand will be planted on these beaches which will completely disrupt the natural landscape – the Ohrid Lake is after all a lake, not the ocean! The urbanization activities for the luxury sea beaches on the lake are projected to start at the beginning of May 2015. Similar construction activities are also planned on different locations around the lake shores that will destroy the reed belt and have a huge impact on the water currents. A new road is planned to go inside the heart of Galicica National Park, disturbing valuable flora and fauna ecosystems that live on the mountain.
Studenchishte Marsh used to stretch over a much broader surface, of which about 60 hectares remain today. There are promises for its revitalization, but a Government conclusion reached without consulting experts from December 2013 still considered relevant in the last Municipality of Ohrid Council Session held on 27 March 2015, acknowledges the existence of only 4.9 hectares of the Marsh, defying expert opinion given in the SEA/EIA referenced above. Furthermore, the structural changes that will lead up to the implementation of the planned infrastructure projects in the marsh will significantly change the current state of its ecosystem and further act as an added value in terms of the negative impact already observed from the implementation and operation of the previously implemented projects. The expansion of Racha and construction of elite neighborhoods and hotels, road construction in addition to the planned construction activities near the marsh will significantly increase the anthropogenic pressure on the lake in this part (additional nutrient intake, noise, dust, etc.).
According to the Index of endemic biodiversity (Wilke, T. et al. [eds.] (2008) Patterns and Processes of Speciation in Ancient Lakes, Developments in Hydrobiology 205), Ohrid Lake with its 212 endemic species is classified as one of the most important aquatic ecosystems in the world. In national legislation the lake was declared a monument of nature which should remain unchanged. Moreover, Lake Ohrid is one of fifty deepest lakes in the world that are considered a museum of living fossils as well as endemic and rare species. Studenchishte Marsh should not be looked at separately from the lake because it is actually an integral part of the lake and as such is in continuous communication with it. Any violent disruption of biodiversity in the marshes also threatens the lake. Studenchishte Marsh is one of the last wetland ecosystems in Macedonia, and according to a Strategy and Action Plan for Biodiversity adopted by the Macedonian Assembly, all national wetlands are considered important sites. The document should be a guide which all further activities for the protection, management and rehabilitation of wetland habitats should be harmonized with.
The Municipality held one public and one expert debate in accordance with national legislation procedures on adopting a new General Urban Plan. Two rounds of Comments were sent by a national green NGO – member of the Ohrid SOS Initiative but there is no response from the institutions. The coastal local units, as well as local NGOs and experts have signed a Declaration to protect the Ohrid Lake and the Galicica National Park from any harmful urbanization (kindly find the English translation of the Declaration attached).
Despite all our best efforts and public and local expert opinion opposing the new urban plans, they still remain. Therefore, we, the people organized under the Ohrid SOS Civic Initiative, are kindly asking the international scientific community to help us by sending us your expert opinion.
Please send all communication to email@example.com.
Activists of the Ohrid SOS Civic Initiative