STUDENCHISHTE MARSH: Gradually degraded after decades of neglect, the wetland of Studenchishte remains an important filter safeguarding Lake Ohrid’s extremely specific water conditions. It is also a regionally rare habitat, supplying extra biodiversity and all the goodness that goes with that. Nonetheless, local authorities have been seeking to drain, concrete and replace Studenchishte with luxury accommodation and even a water-sports complex. Many things will die or diminish if that happens, not least the magical clarity of Lake Ohrid’s water.
LIKELIHOOD: 2/5 Although plans are on-hold for the moment, history tells us that the wetland threat will not go away until Studenchishte Marsh is awarded a robust level of protection. That’s why Ohrid SOS is pushing for its inclusion in the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance and the full 63.97 hectare area to be designated as a Monument of Nature. Although the government agreed to these measures at its 60th session in March 2018, no progress has been made and the institutional obstruction is palpable.
A3 EXPRESS ROAD: Planned to connect Ohrid city with the Albanian border near Sveti Naum, this tarmac villain will rip National Park Galichica apart, bringing noise, trash, fumes, incremental urbanization, poachers, wildfires, light pollution and broken homes in its wake. One of the legal tricks to make it happen involves re-categorizing protected areas. If allowed, nowhere in the Republic of Macedonia will be safe again.
LIKELIHOOD: 0/5 The environmentally irresponsible European Bank of Reconstruction and Development had already been blocked in an attempt to deface the main breeding area for the critically endangered Balkan lynx in Macedonia and now it has been forced to reallocate funds for the A3 to other projects after UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s Decision 41 COM 7B.34 requested cancellation of two proposed road sections in National Park Galichica. In February 2018, the government of the Republic of Macedonia agreed and the road has now been officially CANCELLED!!!
SKI-RESORT: Hand-in-hand with the A3 express road comes a proposal to slice through National Park Galichica’s forests and grasslands with ski-runs and associated facilities, despite severe concerns over whether the mountain offers suitable conditions for winter sports. Designed by Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, a greenwashed company that has won the Rusty Nail anti-award for unsustainability, the ski-resort will invade species’ homes just where they should be feeling safest.
LIKELIHOOD: 0/5 After pressure from Ohrid SOS and a World Heritage Committee request for abandonment of the ski-resort plan, the Macedonian government finally decided not to allow changes to the management plan for National Park Galichica, officially ending the possibility of ski-resort construction.
MARINA: Walking out from Ohrid on the east of town, you cross Studenchishta Channel, which borders the aforementioned Studenchishte Marsh. As if bulldozing everything on land was not enough, urban planners also want to expand into the lake too with a 300-boat marina that is intended to increase the number of watercraft on the lake. While destroying reeds, damaging the shore, and disturbing fish, the proposal is also flexing its muscles for a specially designed car-park for vehicles with boat trailers, a refueling station, restaurant, shop for nautical equipment, and a “traditional lighthouse”, whatever than means…
LIKELIHOOD: 4/5 After going silent for a while, Ohrid Municipality once again appears determined to risk the Studenchishte Marsh wetland area with a mega-project marina.
MULTIPLE HOTELS — GORICA: Various plans exist for large-scale hotels and tourism facilities stretching from North Gorica to Sveti Stefan on Lake Ohrid’s east coast and National Park Galichica’s village of Konjsko. The Strategic Environmental Assessments that have been conducted for these are woefully poor, failing to include basic details such as plans, capacities and clear functions of facilities planned. Nonetheless, they pass the grade for a World Heritage Site in Macedonia.
LIKELIHOOD: 4/5 Some construction is already underway and Macedonia’s decision to ignore a UNESCO request for a moratorium on coastal transformation has allowed moves to develop this part of the coast to edge forward. Threat of placement on the List of World Heritage in Danger may temper efforts to urbanize Lake Ohrid’s east coast for now, but for how long?