WWF Adria: Coexistence of Tourism and Oil Industry is Impossible

By , 16 Oct 2018, 12:57 PM Business
WWF Adria: Coexistence of Tourism and Oil Industry is Impossible Matić Blog, WordPress.com

October 16, 2018 - In the light of the announced arrival of the first seismic vessel to explore fossil fuels reserves of Montenegro on 1 November, we've consulted relevant ecologists, Dr. Mirko Đurović from the Institute for Marine Biology of Montenegro and Mosor Prvan, the expert from World Wild Fund Adria. "There is no place in the world where oil exploration coexists with tourism," says Mosor Prvan from WWF Adria

Day by day we're closer to 1 November, when the Montenegrin territorial waters will sail the first seismic vessel to explore potential fossil fuel stocks in our submarine. What does this mean for the environment? What consequences will it have on the marine ecosystem? Does Montenegro have the capacity to manage such processes? Is it possible to develop tourism and the oil industry together?

The Montenegrin Government, in place of comprehensive public hearings and consultations of citizens on a referendum, informed the citizens of their decision to award a concession for oil and gas exploration to companies Eni Novatek and Energean, through an affirmative PR campaign. Dr. Mirko Đurović, Director of the Institute of Marine Biology of Kotor, hopes the investor will act responsibly by and apply procedures that will reduce the negative impact of these activities on the marine ecosystem and emphasize potential economic benefits if there are any hydrocarbon reserves. On the other hand, Mosor Prvan, expert of the World Wild Fund Adria, claims that the impact of announced activities on the small and closed Adriatic will be extremely negative, and that Montenegro is exposed to the danger of destroying its core economic branches - tourism and accompanying activities by deciding on the exploitation of fossil fuels.

There is no place in the world where oil exploration coexists with tourism, says Mosor Prvan from World Wild Fund Adria, an expert on issues of oil and gas exploitation impact on the environment. Prvan has actively participated in the information campaign of the Croatian public on all aspects of the economic decision on hydrocarbon exploitation, which in the end resulted in the Croatian government, under the pressure of nearly 70 percent of the public, waived their initial intentions. The same intentions are now being implemented in Montenegro.

"As far as I can see what is happening in Montenegro, I think it's very easy to pull the parallels. After 25 years of listening to how Croatia, as a small country with lots of potentials, should become the new Switzerland, and then we suddenly started to be new Saudi Arabia. So they told us that it would bring us new jobs, cheap petroleum products, energy independence, bigger GDP, light money, etc. However, what is the fact is that hydrocarbon exploitation, especially in such a sea as ours, which is a small, shallow, closed sea, is actually gambling. Oil drilling in the Adriatic is nothing but gambling."

The Montenegrin Government's argument was the fact that there are already about 200 oil platforms in the Adriatic Sea. This argument is also addressed by Director of the Institute for Marine Biology, Mirko Đurović, who points out that this scientific institution will closely monitor the impact of announced activities on the marine ecosystem.

"The state of Montenegro has opted for this kind of research for the purpose of securing the economic gain of the state and all its citizens. This is not the first time that oil and gas exploitation is carried out in the Adriatic Sea. Italy is the predecessor, they have already made about 140 boreholes, Croatia has a few more boreholes, which have been active for many years. The only recognized scientific model that can say whether or not there are oil and gas reserves is seismic research. Certainly, these studies will have a certain effect on the marine ecosystem, and to what extent, we will see. The Institute has carried out some research before seismic research. We have been researching fishing resources together with companies planning to do seismic research. We, as a state institution and the only Montenegrin institute dealing with the issue of marine ecosystem protection and its study, are here to go through the whole process, whether it is taking place properly. There are a number of measures that will be prescribed in the section of seismic research, in a way to mitigate the effective impact on the marine ecosystem. Next year, when we repeat the research, we will be able to say whether and to what extent we have had a negative impact on these researches. I have to remind you that Croatia had taken its coastline screening a couple of years ago. And there was a negative attitude by part of the public, especially people who are engaged in tourism. Now, there are, we can say, contradictions. In any case, that job is moving now and it is up to us as a responsible institution to monitor whether and to what extent it will have negative consequences."

Mosor Prvan emphasizes that, in the campaign led by the Government of the Republic of Croatia, there was also an argument that there are already oil platforms in the Adriatic, primarily in Italian waters.

"Blessed Italians, why should we? Italians do not drill; the Italian public is strongly against these drills. The fact is that the corporations are drilling hydrocarbons there. What we are constantly upholding is informing the public. I'm personally against oil drilling. However, it is justified that citizens of Montenegro, citizens of Albania, citizens of Croatia agree to such a gambling, but then deserve to know the arguments against drilling. So, they must have a complete picture of the risk they embark on. And then one such difficult and long-term decision should be made in a referendum. This how it is decided now, without actually asking the citizens, and serving the information that is exclusively affirmative, is not right."

Prvan points out that a particular problem is the lack of information as projects of exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels affect local economies. "The Montenegrin and Croatian industry almost no longer exist. We are countries that, more or less, live exclusively from tourism. What is nice is that many people live directly from tourism, by renting their apartments or providing some services on the market. When it comes to drilling, it is not the citizens who earn, but the state. And in the Balkans, we know very well what kind of relations there are and how things work, so it is more than questionable how much money the oil money would benefit citizens, and how much of those resources would remain on some petty levels." It is indispensable that citizens get real and comprehensive information, says Prvan, explaining that after two years of media campaigns, the opposition of Croatian citizens to such projects rose from the initial 30 to almost 70 percent.

"There is no example in the world where oil and tourism exploit successfully coexist. When it is said that there is tourism and oil in Italy, one should know they do not have them in the same places. In some places there was tourism and oil exploration, such as in Basilicata. This region is very similar to our coastline by type of economy, where the main industries are tourism and agriculture. They had a real oil exploitation boom from 2001 to 2012. About 10 percent of GDP then came from oil, to increase that percentage by up to 70 percent. What has happened is that tourism, agriculture, and fisheries have also disappeared. No more wine or olive production."

The effects of seismic research on marine ecosystems are not under question, and the Institute of Biology will have to be able to offer concrete data only next year when the results of the research in question are compared with the research that preceded the activities of ENI, which begins on November 1st. Mirko Đurović explains: "We are in communication with all state bodies dealing with this issue, as well as with the Italian company ENI, which will carry out these researches. We have revised their documents. We see that with the best scientific practice and scientific knowledge we contribute to solutions that will mitigate this influence. By us, the greatest influence of seismic research will be on the great sea mammals, sea turtles and the youngest stages of fish species, eggs, and larvae. What is the relaxing circumstance is that these seismic explorations are carried out in the period when we have the lowest rate of all species of fish, which is why this period is the most suitable for such activities."

Asked whether Montenegro, not only from the perspective of marine ecology but overall, has the capacity to manage processes such as exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels, Đurovic responds: "I cannot answer that question because I am not someone who is competent for petroleum and gas exploitation. But what I can say from the aspect of environmental protection is that the Institute of Biology must be fully equipped in a part that could contribute to monitoring that activity. If it appears to have oil and gas, exploitation will be open and a platform will be installed, seawater testing will be required. We are largely trained to monitor all those processes. Monitoring is an obligation of the investor. Today, technology has been greatly advanced and all companies in the world that are engaged in this business have very high ecological standards. Now, the other question is the existence of a protection system against any ecological incident. We had a case in the Mexican Gulf where oil was poured out of the huge platform. So the human factor can always play a role that can be fatal to everyone," concludes Djurovic.

Montenegro is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, which says that by the year 2050 it is necessary to completely end the use of fossil fuels. At the same time, Montenegro is the first and only ecological state in the world. What does that mean?

"What amazes me is that people rarely think long-term. In the long run- it does not mean 40-50 years, we are now in a situation where a long time means a period of ten years. If we do not stop using fossil fuels for the next 12 years, we will raise the air temperature by an average of two degrees, which does not sound like much, but that means raising the sea level, changing the climate conditions on the ground, which will certainly not be beneficial to people or animals, neither for breeding or food. So what we encounter is no longer "preserving the land for future generations, for our children". We are talking about a direct threat to ourselves as individuals who now live on Earth," says WWF Adria expert Mosor Prvan.

"When I talk about oil exploitation, I like to divide the story into two parts. The first is the direct economic benefit of the local population, which is very questionable, and where it directly jeopardizes what they are previously dealing with in a particular area. The second aspect is the fact that we are all part of a single planet, which leads to a very unrealistic situation. But it is not about the planet, it will be there for a billion years. We directly jeopardize ourselves."

When asked whether any findings of the Institute of Biology must, when possible to compare the state of the ecosystem before and after seismic research, can prevent further research and possible exploitation of hydrocarbons from the Montenegrin submarine, Đurovic explains: "We hope that the investor of the seismic researches will work properly and implement all measures that will mitigate the negative effect. After the research we are going to take next year, our reports will be publicly available. Also, we are obliged to submit your report to the competent authorities and decision-makers, after which they will decide whether or not to resume the activities they are taking. "

Generally, when it comes to decisions regarding the so-called "economic development", it seems that in Montenegro there is not enough space and rights in the scientific community, even though it contains views based on scientific facts. "It all depends on which angle you look at. When we talk about oil and gas, it is primarily about a certain economic gain because it is a resource that still generates great economic benefits both per country and per capita. This activity, if proven to be resourceful, will probably generate a certain number of new jobs and a better standard for all citizens. On the other hand, a healthy environment has no alternative. In Albania, Italy and Croatia there are over 200 drills with a large number of active oil platforms. We are not aware that the quality of the environment has collapsed, tourism is developing to the extent that it can be developed so that we can see it," concluded Director of the Institute for Marine Biology of the University of Montenegro, Dr. Mirko Đurović.

"They often pull parallels with the Italians. The Italians have the Adriatic Sea, but they also go out on a whole range of other seas. We only have this one sea. Our tradition is in some way anchored in this sea, as well as our culture and heritage. We live with that sea and for that sea. I would appeal to the people to really think about how they act towards the sea, and in the end line towards themselves," Prvan concluded.

Nataša Kovačević from NGO Green Home said earlier that she believed the decision to research and exploit fossil fuels in the Adriatic would soon become a very big shame for Montenegro and all those who gave the green light to this project.

Remax Property of the Week

Property of the week.png


Interview of the week

Photo of the Week

Photo galleries and videos