BUCHAREST - For almost 9 years, Romania has been criticised and monitored by the European Commission for allowing the large-scale destruction of several mountain rivers for the purpose of building micro-hydropower plants, without complying with the Water Framework and Habitats Directives.

The initial aim of the micro-hydropower projects, some financed with European money, was to reduce pollution through the production of green energy. In many areas the effect was quite the opposite - the destruction of some protected natural areas.

For years, Romanian authorities hid the reality on the ground and postponed the restoration of the affected areas, while obliging the population to subsidise, through electricity bills, the actual destruction of rivers and protected areas.

In the end, the economic benefits were insignificant: in total, the 200 micro-hydro-power plants provide almost 1.5% of Romania's national electricity production.

In this context, we discovered how money recyclers of Italian mafia clans infiltrated such projects through front companies and proxies, taking over the businesses of some local politicians or their relatives. In parallel, companies belonging to other politicians or controversial businessmen benefited from European money and green certificates for setting up hydroelectric plants which were afterwards been put on the problem list by the European Commission.

Caption: One of the MHP plants taken over by Italians through front companies and seized by authorities as part of an anti-mafia operation.

Photo by RISE Project

Team members

Daniel Bojin

Daniel is a Romanian journalist, co-founder of RISE Project Bucharest, an investigative journalism platform affiliated with OCCRP.

Daniel Bojin

Lorenzo Bodrero

Lorenzo Bodrero is an investigative and data journalist from Italy, co-founder of the investigative outlet IrpiMedia.

Lorenzo Bodrero

Roxana Jipa

Roxana Jipa is an investigative journalist and fact checker based in Bucharest.

€10,000 allocated on 27/10/2022


need resources for your own investigative story?

Journalismfund Europe's flexible grants programmes enable journalists to produce relevant public interest stories with a European mind-set from international, national, and regional perspectives.


support independent cross-border investigative journalism

We rely on your support to continue the work that we do. Make a gift of any amount today.