MedINA attending the Free Flow Conference

MedINA attending the Free Flow Conference

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MedINA was present at both the Free Flow Conference and the Dam Removal course, taking place in Groningen, the Netherlands, between 12-17 April 2024. During the course, organised by the World Fish Migration Foundation and Dam Removal Europe, MedINA representatives had the opportunity to exchange views and experiences with about 30 participants from all over the world. The workshop’s core trainers, Laura Wildman and Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy, with extensive knowledge in the field of removing small and large dams and weirs from rivers and streams in the USA, shared their expertise and experiences of the last 30-plus years, covering both the social and technical dimensions of dam removal projects.

During the Free Flow Conference, around 400 participants from Europe and the world joined their voices, highlighting the need to restore Europe’s fragmented water ecosystems and stressing the utmost importance of protecting and preserving the last free-flowing rivers. Scientists, engineers, politicians and river enthusiasts were there to share experiences, witness successful projects of barrier removal from rivers in Europe and North America and get to know the benefits of the natural regeneration that follows the completion of such projects.

The audience expressed its admiration for Europe’s few remaining wild river ecosystems, like the transboundary free-flowing Aoos/Vjosa River. MedINA had the opportunity to present its ongoing efforts to protect and conserve the Aoos River as a valuable ecological corridor for wildlife and local communities. Dimitris Papageorgiou, local coordinator and project manager of the Ri-Connect project, in his presentation ‘Conservation challenges in the Aoos River basin: the threat of small hydropower plants’, talked about the current situation and focused on MedINA’s work towards safeguarding the river in the face of ongoing pressures and upcoming threats, like the dozens of planned small hydropower projects affecting the whole Aoos River basin.

The conference ended with five different thematic field visits. In one of them, technical and administrative officials from Groningen’s Water Authority presented their efforts to restore degraded river ecosystems, due to past unsustainable water management practices, like damming and channeling. Removing such barriers, installing fishpasses and significantly increasing riverbed boundaries, were just some of the practices that started to be implemented in the 1990s and now exhibit their profound positive impact on biodiversity and resilience against extreme weather events like floods.

We would like to thank the organizers of the workshop and the conference, and rest assured, the invaluable experience and knowledge gained will serve as a foundation for adaptation and application within Greece.

MedINA’s participation took place in the framework of its ongoing projects; «Ri-Connect» which is funded by the Prespa Ohrid Nature Trust (PONT) and «Scaling up Dam Removal: Implementation plan in SE Europe», funded by the European Open Rivers Programme.