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Europe and Central Asia
30 Jun 2016

Croatian national powerlines operator to collaborate with BirdLife Partner to protect migratory birds

Powerlines over Zagreb, Croatia. © Miroslav Vajdic
By Mate Zec

Things are looking up for birds migrating through Croatia. Migrating birds, particularly soaring birds such as large raptors, are at great risk from collision with and electrocution by overhead power lines, and in Croatia there has never been a systematic nationwide attempt to tackle this issue – until now.

The national electrical distribution system operator HEP ODS and Association BIOM (BirdLife in Croatia) have worked together for several months to firmly establish a common ground on flyway conservation, and we can now report that the joint efforts have resulted in a signed Memorandum of Understanding between BIOM and HEP ODS.

The MoU clearly defines the common interest of both parties in making medium voltage power lines safer for birds and wildlife in Croatia while not only making the electrical distribution network more robust (helping HEP ODS fulfil its legal obligations) but also improving the safety of both resident and migratory birds affected by the network.

Association BIOM was contacted by HEP ODS once it recognised that outside expert help was needed to satisfy the provisions on bird conservation set out by the Ordinance on Natura 2000 SPA sites. And while the process of defining the contents and getting the MoU signed was slow, it was without major disagreements.

The work we (BIOM) have ahead of us is going to be formidable, as Croatia comes with its own set of challenges in working with power lines. A large proportion of Croatia’s extensive medium voltage network is difficult to access, which will make monitoring of bird mortality extremely challenging. In windy coastal areas, insulators retain wind-blown sea spray, corroding the conductors quickly and making insulation unpopular among maintenance personnel.

But arguably an even bigger problem than thickets or corrosion is the rigidly pragmatic mindset of the local people that currently see conservation as an unnecessary burden. Thanks to our cooperation with HEP ODS, we have already started raising awareness and bringing conservation into the mainstream consciousness by holding lectures among energy distributors -- and we will continue for as long as it takes.

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Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.