The other Balkan route

Six policemen guarding a kayak

Well-guarded kayak at the protest in Tirana

© Andrew Burr

Balkan Rivers Tour against dam tsunami ended ++ Kayakers paddled 23 rivers in 6 countries ++ Photo highlights of the tour

Joint press release by EuroNatur and Riverwatch, 31 May 2016


Radolfzell, Vienna, Ljubljana. 23 rivers in six countries, 390 river kilometers: on Friday, May 20, a very unique activity ended in the Albanian capital of Tirana – the Balkan Rivers Tour. Over 35 days, kayakers from all over Europe paddled the most beautiful and most threatened rivers in the Balkans in order to draw attention to the looming dam tsunami on the peninsula. A total of over 500 paddlers from 17 nations participated in the activity. Headed by Rok Rozman, former Slovenian Olympic athlete and initiator of the tour, they covered almost 400 kilometers of waterway. Another 1550 non-

The grand finale of the tour took place on the “queen of the Balkans”: the Vjosa in Albania – the last big wild river of Europe outside Russia. Amid the applause of hundreds of attendants, Rozman left his kayak in front of the office of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama during the closing event of the tour in Tirana. More than 1,000 people signed the boat in order to protest against the plans of damming the Vjosa. Instead, they demand that the Vjosa be declared as a national park. It would be the first Wild River National Park of Europe.

“For me and the Balkan Rivers Tour team, this tour was certainly the most intense and, at the same time, most definitely the best time of our lives! The support we received from local communities, anglers, nature conservationists and even politicians was astounding and inspiring. Together we will save these rivers”, so Rok Rozman upon his return to Slovenia.

The tour was following a very special Balkan route: a route that leads through breathtaking river landscapes from Slovenia, to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, to Albania. A total of 23 rivers were paddled, all of which threatened by hydro power projects. In the entire region between Slovenia and Albania, plans for 2,700 hydropower plants are currently in place.

“The Blue Heart of Europe beats on the Balkans. However, it is at risk of a heart attack. We will do anything to stop this dam craze. The kayakers’ activity was a tremendous support for our initiative”, says Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign at Riverwatch.

“The wild rivers in the Balkans are the crown jewels of the European nature treasury. The multitude and diversity of natural and unimpaired river landscapes is without par in Europe. However, these unique natural treasures are now being surreptitiously sacrificed for short-term profits. This we must prevent”, says Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur.

Background information

  • The following 23 rivers were paddled during the Balkan Rivers Tour: Sava Bohinjka, Sava Dolinka, Sava, Soča, Koritnica and Učja (Slovenia), Zrmanja (Croatia), Unac, Una, Sana, Neretva and Buna  (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Morača and Tara (Montenegro), Radika, Tresonechka Reka and Mala Reka (Macedonia), Valbona, Osum, Langarica, Drino, Bence, and Vjosa (Albania)
  • The kayakers accompanying the tour (in sections) were from 17 countries: Slovenia, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Netherlands, Albania, Argentina, USA, Finland, Norway, Great Britain, Greece, Spain
  • Find video clips of the tour HERE
  • The Balkan Rivers Tour was an activity organized within the framework of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign, which was launched by ‘EuroNatur’ and ‘Riverwatch’ in order to protect the Balkan rivers from the imminent destruction due to hydropower development. The Balkan Rivers Tour was a joint initiative by Leeway Collective, EuroNatur, Riverwatch and WWF Adria and was supported by Patagonia, Mava Foundation and Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung.

Theresa Schiller (EuroNatur), theresa.schiller(at),  +49 (0)7732-9272-12
(press contact: Katharina Grund, katharina.grund(at) +49 (0) 7732-9272-10)
Rok Rozman (Leeway Collective), rok(at),   +386 51 421 303
Ulrich Eichelmann (Riverwatch), ulrich.eichelmann(at), +43 676 662 1512

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