GRADISHTE: Just over halfway from Ohrid city to the border with Albania at Sveti Naum is the stunning national park promontory of Gradishte, where a caravan park is currently located. Here, next to waters known for their exceptional clarity even by Lake Ohrid standards, a 16,000-square-meter development is under consideration, within which will manifest a 4,000 square-meter hotel and 75 buildings with 4 apartments each. Swimming pools, artificially manufactured “Mediterranean horticulture”, and 935m of paved roads are all in the package. Evidently, the translucent waters of Lake Ohrid and authentic life-filled habitats of Mount Galichica are not good enough for some people.
LIKELIHOOD: 3/5 Death of the Galichica ski-resort has delayed this specific plan, perhaps terminally, but nature has transformed the Gradishte area into a prime location, so the chance of developers returning to rob its treasures is high.
PESHTANI: Another sleepy national park village, another 30,000 square meters of new-build car-parking for nearly 1,000 vehicles, express road connection, hotel cluster, retail bonanza, ski-gondola, spa, conference facilities and low density accommodation that will therefore occupy far more space than necessary. Unbelievably, the development will also contain a manufactured “retreat space”. Isn’t that a key purpose of an undisturbed national park?
LIKELIHOOD: 2/5 Many of the Peshtani plans were contingent on the now-cancelled ski-resort and the UNESCO-kiboshed express road so they have been forced to take a step back. Sanity returns.
HIGHWAY A2: As if to highlight the senselessness of the express road in National Park Galichica on the east of Lake Ohrid, there is already a faster road connecting with Albania on the west. What is more, the intention is to make it even quicker with construction of the A2 highway. The A2 envisages passing through habitats of less ecological importance than the express road, but has nonetheless been identified by UNESCO’s Reactive Monitoring Mission report as requiring improved measures for both people and animals to cross. The same report suggests upgrades to the existing road rather than establishing a new route between the city of Struga and Albania. We hope we’re not the only ones reading it.
LIKELIHOOD: 4/5 Some aspects of the A2 plan lack funding at the present moment, but backing for the highway runs all the way to the European Union. The Republic of Macedonia is stubbornly refusing UNESCO’s request for it to upgrade nature crossings and provide full heritage impact assessments.
EUROPEAN CORRIDOR VIII: As you should have figured by now, enough is never enough with Ohrid region construction plans. Packaged with the A2 highway on the western side comes the Corridor VIII railway, bringing risks of pollution run-offs during both construction and operation, not least since, in places, it will run right next to the Lake Ohrid shore and carry heavy freight. So far, no cumulative assessment has been made to gauge either the dual impact of the A2 road and railway together or in combination with the multitude of other plans we have seen. Current assessments for both projects do not even cover their full length, instead focusing on just an 8-kilometer stretch. At present, UNESCO considers that they may represent a case for inscription of the Ohrid region on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
LIKELIHOOD: 4/5 Again, pressure for this comes from the European Union, which wants to link the Black and Adriatic Seas. The level of opposition will depend on complete environmental assessments, for which UNESCO is pushing hard. Indeed, failure to complete them and consider other routes for the railway has formed part of the logic for the World Heritage Centre to recommend the Ohrid region to be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.