Europe’s rivers are damned by dams

++ New study reveals extent of hydropower frenzy all over Europe ++ Plans for more than 8,700 new hydropower plants ++ Devastating impacts on biodiversity and society particularly in the Balkans ++

Europe's rivers are damned! The map shows existing and planned hydropower plants on the continent. One of the geographical focus: the Balkans. © Fluvius (commissioned by WWF, RiverWatch, EuroNatur, GEOTA)
The Jadar dam in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Hydropower plants destroy the biodiversity of river landscapes. 20-30 fish species are likely to become extinct if the plants projected in Europe are to be realized. © Amel Emric
Small hydropower plant Ugar in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Many of the planned hydropower plants are so-called small hydropower plants, however, their damage to nature is anything but small. At this river, the globally endangered Huchen has lost its spawning ground. © Amel Emric

Radolfzell, Vienna. The first pan-European inventory of existing and planned hydropower plants shows the immense pressure on rivers throughout the continent. In addition to the 21,387 existing hydropower plants, another 8,785 are planned, mainly in the Alps and the Balkans. Previously untouched rivers – especially in the Balkans – are to be destroyed. More than a quarter (2,500) of these hydropower projects are situated in protected areas, mainly in national parks and Natura 2000 sites.

The study was commissioned by EuroNatur, Riverwatch, WWF, and GEOTA. Its findings highlight the failure of governments both within and outside the EU to protect rivers and biodiversity, and document plain disregard of EU water protection legislation, in particular the Water Framework Directive.

“We are facing the end of free-flowing rivers in Europe and a collapse of biodiversity if we do not stop this hydropower madness. The EU Commission under Ursula von der Leyen and the national governments have to stop this expansion. Above all, they must put an end to subsidies for hydropower and improve river protection. It is unacceptable that our electricity bill finances hydropower investors and thus the destruction of Europe’s lifelines,” says Ulrich Eichelmann of Riverwatch.

“The largest number of hydropower plants – more than 3,000 – is planned to be constructed in the Balkans. Most of these rivers are still intact, some even untouched. They are a European treasure that we cannot afford to lose. We urge the European Union to address these developments in the accession negotiations and to insist on compliance with nature conservation legislation. In the Balkans, there is excessive investment in hydropower, while the potential for solar power – a truly renewable energy source – remains largely untapped,” says EuroNatur executive director Gabriel Schwaderer.

Hydropower dams destroy rivers and their surroundings, and they substantially contribute to biodiversity loss. They interrupt the natural flow of the river, block fish migration – affecting fish stocks and the survival of endangered species – and intercept sediments that protect river banks and deltas from flooding and rising sea levels. Local communities are literally being dried up. In addition, over 90 percent of the planned hydroelectric power plants generate only small amounts of electricity (less than 10 MW), i.e. they are so-called ‘small’ hydropower plants that cause great damage to nature with little economic benefit.

Steven Weiss, Assoc. Univ.-Prof. Uni Graz, emphasizes the devastating effects of hydropower: “Based on extrapolations from my more detailed study on the Balkans, as well as the IUCN red list, we can predict that at least 20 and perhaps up to 30 freshwater fish species would go extinct if all of these plans would be carried out. Furthermore, a large percentage (> 95%) of the southern European fish fauna would be placed in an IUCN threat category. We must understand that the already high demand for water resources, especially in southern Europe will be exacerbated by such large-scale hydropower exploitation, resulting in a deadly combination for freshwater biodiversity.”

In order to tackle freshwater biodiversity loss, we demand from all European countries and the EU

  • a Blue New Deal for European Rivers
  • no more subsidies
  • better protection of valuable river stretches
  • a new pan-European river restoration program

 

Background information:

  • Download the FULL REPORT and the SUMMARY REPORT
  • Campaign to save the Balkan rivers: Around 3000 new hydropower plants are currently planned or under construction between Slovenia and Albania. The nature conservation organisations EuroNatur and Riverwatch as well as local partners in the Balkan countries run the campaign ‘Save the Blue Heart of Europe’ to counter this wave of destruction. 

Contact information:

 

How you can help

Donation

Future needs nature. EuroNatur cares for it. Please use your possibilities to help. With your donation you will make an effective contribution to protect rivers in Europe.

Newsletter

Twice a month, EuroNatur provides you with the latest campaign and project information about Europe's natural heritage free of charge and at first hand.

News: Blue Heart of Europe

Rebuke for Albania: Bern Convention insists on Albanian government to suspend hydropower projects on Vjosa river

The Bern Convention Standing Committee has decided to keep the case against the Albanian government in regards to the projected Pocem and Kalivac...

Europe’s rivers are damned by dams

++ New study reveals extent of hydropower frenzy all over Europe ++ Plans for more than 8,700 new hydropower plants ++ Devastating impacts on...

“Brave women of Kruščica” receive EuroNatur Award 2019

++ EuroNatur Award goes to dedicated river conservationists from Bosnia-Herzegovina ++ Dam boom threatens the last wild rivers of our continent ++

Another victory for free-flowing rivers inside Mavrovo National Park

++ Construction permits for two hydropower plants annulled after supervision by construction inspectorate ++

New report: hydropower subsidies wreak environmental havoc and line influential pockets in the Western Balkans

Disproportionate public subsidies for small hydropower in the Western Balkans have resulted in widespread environmental damage and have benefited...

Bridge blocked - river saved - honoured with EuroNatur Award

++ EuroNatur Award 2019 goes to the “brave women of Kruščica" ++ Bridge occupied for over 500 days to block construction of hydropower plants ++ Award...

“Brave Women of Kruščica” honoured for river protection

++ River conservationists from Bosnia-Herzegovina receive EuroNatur Award 2019 ++ Energy companies want to exploit the last wild rivers of Europe, but...

Wave of protest against Balkan dam building frenzy

++ First ever international action weeks for Balkan rivers ++ People took to the streets in many countries of the Balkan region ++ They protested...

Hydropower Project Mokrice put on hold

Good news from the Sava: Our appeal against the building of the hydropower plant Mokrice at the Slovenian-Croatian border was successful. The...

North Macedonia: No-go zones for hydropower projects must be designated

++ NGOs, government representatives, experts, hydropower developers and the local community discuss challenges and solutions at an international...

Balkan Rivers in the European Parliament

The Blue Heart team presented the Eco-Masterplan for Balkan Rivers in the European Parliament in Brussels at the event “Save the Balkan Rivers:...

Milestone bank summit in Belgrade for protecting Balkan rivers

++ More transparency needed in financing hydropower ++ Meeting of banks and activists a step towards protecting Balkan rivers ++

Albania fails to comply with Energy Community Law

++ NGOs file complaint against Albania ++ Hydropower projects on Vjosa river clearly breach Energy Community rules ++

Hydropower projects on the Vjosa: Bern Convention opens case-file against Albania

++ Hydropower plant projects Poçem and Kalivaç to be suspended immediately. ++ Standing Committee to the Bern Convention recognizes imminent danger to...

Eco-Masterplan shows value of Balkan Rivers

++ 80,000 kilometers of rivers in the Balkans scientifically assessed ++ 76 percent thereof identified as no-go zones for hydropower development ++...

By using our services, you agree that we use cookies. Data protection