Slovenia's Minister of Finance, Anrej Bajuk, has proposed that construction of a chain of five hydro power plants on the lower part of the Sava river should be expedited.

During a visit to the construction site for Bostanj hydro plant – the first plant in the chain – Bajuk suggested the construction of the next plant should begin a year after construction of the previous one in the chain begins.

Bostanj is scheduled to be connected to the grid in June this year. Preparation works for the second plant, Blanca, are well underway, with construction slated to begin in mid-2006. Preparation works for the Krsko plant will also begin this year, with works on the Brezice facility scheduled to start in 2011. However, the fate of the last one in the chain, Mokrice, depends on a water regime agreement with Croatia.

Under the original plan the new facilities were to be constructed by 2018 and will more than double the power generated on the Sava river. Their total output is expected to account for 2% of the Slovenian hydro power electricity production, and will in turn meet 6% of the country’s energy needs.

Meanwhile, the UN Development Programme has said that Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro have signed an agreement to protect the lower Sava basin.

The Sava River Basin management plan, which is to be developed by the four countries sharing Sava and its basin, includes an assessment of the Sava environment and of human activities affecting the river. In line with the plan, the signatories will take joint action in solving the problems affecting the river, such as agricultural water pollution, waste waters and industry, as well as the construction of hydro plants.

In the first year, the parties to the agreement are to implement the plan in cooperation with the Danube Regional Project and the international Commission for the Protection of the Danube River. The commission is to review the plan by 2009, the deadline which the European Commission has set for member states to develop national and regional plans for the protection of water resources in line with the EU Water Framework Directive.