ANCHOR - AssessmeNt of the Combined effects of Hydropower on the ecOsystems and the ecological status of Rivers

Project facts

Project promoter:
The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe – branch Bulgaria
Project Number:
Target groups
Civil servants/Public administration staff,
Initial project cost:
Final project cost:
From EEA Grants:
€ 164,956
The project is carried out in:


The present situation in Bulgaria in regard to the sustainable hydropower development is characterized by difficulties to find the balance between the economic and environmental objectives due to methodological and data gaps. There is no national methodology for assessment of the potential impacts from hydropower on water bodies and criteria for eligibility assessment of river sections, compliant with EU Water Framework Directive. This places the water authorities in delicate situation and consolidates the need to develop national approach. Objective of the project is to analyze the combined effects of hydropower on the river ecosystems and develop methodology for classification of river sections as eligibility for the construction of HPP. The project will explore and adapt to BG conditions the experience of Norway in water research and hydropower planning. Knowledge transfer and experience exchange will be organizaed trough exchange visits. Detailed set of criteria for HPP eligibility assessment, based on the adopted river WB typology and classification system of the ecological status will be elaborated and tested in at least two pilot sub-basins in order to cover the main river types of concern for HPP development (from alpine to lowland river types). Development of recommendations for mitigation measures (fish passes, environmental flow, site monitoring requirements etc.) will be elaborated and proposed as list of prescriptions for HPP issuing permits as well as for integration into the RBMPs 2015-2021. Due to the controversial nature of the topic and possible conflicts between stakeholder groups, the proposed National methodology will be carefully consulted with the stakeholders by targeted interviews and a workshop.

Summary of project results

Hydroelectric power plants (HPP) occupy the largest share of renewable energy in Bulgaria. They contribute to the security of energy supply by offsetting peak consumption. The HPPs causes a negative effects on river ecosystems related to fragmentation of river habitats and changes in river morphology. Bulgaria is committed to achieve "good environmental status" of surface water bodies, as defined by the Water Framework Directive 2000/60 / EC (WFD), as well as the "favorable conservation status" of protected species and natural habitats according to Directive 92/43 / EC. A key challenge is to optimize the future development of hydropower for achieving a balance between economic and environmental interests. The main project objective is assessment of the combined impact of hydropower plants on river ecosystems and to propose a methodology for classification of river stretches according to their admissibility for the construction of hydroelectric power plants, trough applying the common approach to sustainable hydroelectricity defined by International Commission for the Protection of Danube River In the implementation of the project, a study on the impacts of hydropower plants on river ecosystems was carried out. An analysis of EU and EEA best practices for assessing the potential of hydropower and the eligibility criteria for the construction of hydropower plants was developed including a review of good practices and tools to support green innovations and technologies. Experts Norwegian Institute for Water Research implemented two exchange visits and an provide analysis of Norway's experience. The developed National methodology for assessing the eligibility of watercourses for the construction of hydroelectric power plants, includes two levels of assessment: (1) a preliminary assessment of eligibility for the whole river basin using GIS and (2) evaluation criteria for individual hydropower projects. The methodology and criteria were tested for the entire territory of the East Aegean and West Aegean Basins. A preliminary assessment was also carried out for remaining river basins in Bulgaria - the Danube and the Black Sea. The methodology and criteria passed through stakeholder consultations at a conference in Sofia and at the local level with seminars in Plovdiv and Blagoevgrad. The integration project results into the River Basin Management Plans was carried out under the "Programs of Measures" section in accordance with the requirements of the Bulgarian Water Act and the WFD 2000/60/EC.

Summary of bilateral results

During the implementation of activities 2,3 and 6, several meetings were held with project partners and with their experts (internal and external). Several skype meetings with project partners form Norway (NIVA) were conducted via Skype. The exchange of experience and the transfer of knowledge is the basis for the development of bilateral relations within the ANCHOR project. This was done both on the basis of joint work on the project activities and through the exchange visits – two in total. This allowed stregntening the bilateral relations between partners, improving the quality of the project results as well as opportunities for new project initiatives. The exchange visit to Norway in October 2015 allowed representatives of the partners and the beneficiary to meet and exchange experience and knowledge. During the meeting future joint initiatives were discussed. The experience of the Norwegian partner is very valuable to the Beneficiary and the project partners and will be used to multiply the results achieved by the project. The exchange visit of the Norwegian partner NIVA was planned, organized and successfully carried out in the period 11-13 May 2016 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Norwegian partners presented to a wide audience the country's experience in the development of hydro power plants, the challenges and achievements related to its environmental impacts and shared their experience in relation to WFD 2000/60/EU implementation. The results of the ANCHOR project were demonstrated as good practice at the EEA FM conference held on 13-14 October 2016 in Sofia. Participants in the conference from Norway and EEA beneficiary countries visited one of the pilot river sections on the territory of the WARBD on site and got acquainted with the results of the project. Additional benefits have been realized from the established partnership with NIVA, beyond the direct commitments of the project: - NIVA hosted a meeting in an exchange visit to Norway under another project funded by the BG03 Program - Assessment and mapping of ecosystem services of freshwater and marine ecosystems in Bulgaria FEMA/MARE - BLUEGREENGOV has been prepared and submitted under the EU Horizon 2020 Program, with a leading partner NIVA and a REC - Bulgaria as a partner, demonstrating the sustainable relations developed as a result of the ANCHOR partnership.