Human activities in recent centuries have led to the degradation of Europe’s rivers, with the vast majority of them now being considered highly modified. In particular, it is estimated that there are more than 1 million barriers on the 1.2 million kilometres of European rivers, i.e., every 1 to 2 kilometres there is one artificial barrier: dam, diversion, canal, weir, etc. This situation has multiple negative consequences, such as a 93% reduction in the populations of migratory freshwater fish, while the lack of natural space to relieve the increasingly intense flooding of recent years has led to incalculable damage and, unfortunately, even to the loss of human life.
Recognising this problem, the European Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 and the European Nature Restoration Law set a target of freeing 25,000 km of rivers in Europe over the next decade by removing barriers from rivers. Although thousands of cases of dam removal with significant environmental, economic, and social benefits have been documented in Northern and Northwestern Europe, in many parts of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans, dam removal has not yet been implemented.
Thus, the Dam Removal Europe movement, led by the World Fish Migration Foundation and partners MedINA, Fauna & Flora, Wetlands International, European Rivers Network, and WWF Netherlands, Slovakia and Adria, took the initiative to launch the project “Scaling up dam removal: implementation plan for Southeastern Europe” to develop an implementation plan for dam removal from the rivers of Southeastern Europe with a greater focus on Greece, Croatia, Romania and Slovakia.
More specifically, the project focuses on the following actions:
- Formulating proposals to create more favourable policies in terms of barrier removal.
- Awareness raising and public information, dissemination of know-how, tools and good practices.
- Strengthening the Dam Removal Europe movement in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans by enabling more people and institutions to remove dams from their rivers through their participation in funding applications to the Open Rivers Programme.
The project “Scaling up dam removal: implementation plan for Southeastern Europe” is a three-year project funded by the Open Rivers Programme and implemented by the World Fish Migration Foundation with partners MedINA, Fauna & Flora, Wetlands International (WI), European Rivers Network (ERN) and WWF Netherlands, WWF Slovakia and WWF Adria.
Photo: Hučava Weir, Slovakia © Rob Kleinjans