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How Hydropower Turned Hohe Tauern into a National Park


Nature protection history and ecological hotspots started in the 1970s, says Florian Jurgeit, planner with the Hohe Tauern National Park. Citizens started nature trails by their own volition. They balanced out the revenues and high nature values from hydropower plants that were about to be erected and the ecosystem services that might have sprung along nature trails.

Consequently, the park was fully established in 1992 in Tyrol, preceded in 1981 in Carinthia and 1984, Salzburg.

The park and its surrounding communities live under a continuous push of developers to build hydropower plants.

Waterfall in the Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria. 2C

“We have to protect nature, that allows for no exploitation, no ski resorts, and no reservoirs – and that is according to IUCN. Hiking, mountaineering is highly encouraged, with the benefit of complete alpine route freedom. It is worth mentioning that in 75% of the area hunting is banned,” adds Jurgeit.

We proceeded in a cold morning rain towards the Umbal glacier and we did not reach it directly. We managed to observe its waters coming down, direction Drava, in impressive cataracts, an absolute beauty and a force of nature kept away from the greedy pipes of hydropower developments.

The experts say that big power plants supersede microhydro projects, a rather good news for the area’s biodiversity. “With the big ones you can control waters. Small ones are difficult to control and very often the management cheats on the water quantities used,” adds Jurgeit.

Nowadays, as noted in previous posts, energy comes from the big hydro-plants on the Danube. Moreover, energy is imported cheaply from wind parks in northern Europe. “It is just not feasible to make reservoirs here. Plus there would be no employment in the valleys,” Jurgeit concludes.

Furthermore the Isel Valley is in the process of being registered as a Natura2000 site with all incumbent benefits.

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