Our river projects

Saving the Balkan rivers

In the Balkans, many rivers remain unspoilt. This is where the “Blue Heart of Europe” beats. More than 80% of southeastern Europe’s rivers are in good or even very good ecological condition. By comparison, only 10% of rivers in Germany are considered near-natural and 60% are heavily regulated.

Many rare species live in the rivers of the Balkans, as yet largely undisturbed. Yet the “Blue Heart” is under threat; almost all the Balkan rivers are scheduled to be developed for hydropower utilisation -  without any regard for their ecological value. There are even plans for dams in high priority conservation areas.

What EuroNatur and its partners are doing to protect the Balkan rivers and what we have been able to achieve together:
  • The Vjosa designated a National Park: For more than ten years, EuroNatur and its partners fought hard for this achievement and, on 15 March 2023, we were finally able to celebrate: the Vjosa - one of Europe’s last great wild rivers - was declared a national park. Since then, some of the Vjosa's unspoilt tributaries have also enjoyed a strict protection status. This represents a huge success for nature as well as for the people who live along the river. Increasing ecotourism offers them good economic prospects - unlike the planned huge dams that would have flooded farmers' fields.

Vjosa Wild River National Park

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  • Opposing the hydropower boom: We don’t just oppose hydropower plants; we are also working to identify alternatives that will enable the Balkan states to develop economically without the expansion of hydropower. We are helping to make Kutë, on the Vjosa, the first energy self-sufficient village in Albania and we have analysed the solar capacity of roof areas in Tirana where there is huge solar energy potential.
  • Mobilising people in support of the rivers: We are supporting civilians in the work they do for the rivers and are ensuring they have international support. We have initiated peaceful protest weeks in the Balkans, set up national campaign teams in many states of the Western Balkans, strengthened local opposition and gained support for our campaign from internationally recognised scientists.

Scientists for Vjosa 2021

Electrofishing in the Vjosa
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If you don’t have scientists who can translate this for the public and politicians, and are ready to do so, then that knowledge is going to be lost. You only do this if you feel the emotion… if you feel as though you are responsible for something.

Gabriel Singer, Professor at the Institute of Ecology at Innsbruck University

Scientists study the tributaries of the Vjosa_Magazine 3/21

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Details about the "Save the Blue Heart of Europe" campaign can be found on our campaign website balkanrivers.net


Dam boom in the Mediterranean

In the Mediterranean region, from the Balkan Peninsula to the Iberian Peninsula, the last free-flowing rivers and their respective ecosystems are under threat from both large and small hydropower projects. Hydropower is often portrayed as a "green and clean" energy source. But dams destroy rivers. They impede migratory fish species on their way to their spawning grounds and block the movement of sediments in the river. This can lead to the erosion of entire sections of coastline.

Free flowing rivers are therefore essential for people, for animals and plants, and for sustainable development. EuroNatur is a member of the Anti-Hydropower Platform. The aim of this civil society movement is to protect rivers, from Portugal to Turkey, from the impact of dams and hydropower plants.

Graffiti on a dilapidated dam

Throughout the Mediterranean, resistance to river engineering is growing: Sloboda Rijekama - Freedom for the Rivers!

© Dinno Kasalo/CZZS

For me, to protect rivers from destruction is a question of human dignity.

Lejla Kusturica Lejla Kusturica, Director at ACT (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
What EuroNatur and its partners are doing to save Mediterranean river landscapes and what we have been able to achieve together:
  • Taking legal action: With a powerful team of national and international legal experts, our partners are taking action against selected hydropower projects. Our strategy has been a successful one; many hydropower plants planned for particularly sensitive stretches of river have not been built or have had a moratorium imposed on their construction.
  • Establishing the facts: We are commissioning studies to increase knowledge of the threats posed by hydropower in the Mediterranean. We have thus developed a very good information and evidence base and, as a result, have been able to arm ourselves with compelling arguments to demonstrate why the massive expansion of hydropower is harmful to river character.
  • Lobbying: At a variety of political levels, we are arguing against the further subsidisation of hydropower. And, thanks to our persuasive efforts, several countries (Portugal, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina) have stopped financing dams.

Open letter: Counting on new hydropower to accelerate Renewable Energy deployment in Europe is irresponsible.

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On a wave of resistance - Rivers in BiH_Magazine 4/21

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Partners: Riverwatch, Front 21/42, EkoSvest, CZZS: Center for Environment, EcoAlbania, Foundation Atelier for Community Transformation - ACT, Tour du Valat, Medina, Pindos Perivallontiki, IUCN ECARO, Wetlands International Europe, WWF Adria, GEOTA
Promotion: Mava Foundation, Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung, Fondation Genevoise de Bienfaisance, Fondation pour la Sauvegarde de la Nature, Patagonia, EuroNatur donors.


Other EuroNatur river projects

  • Preserving Europe’s Water Framework Directive: In 2019, more than 375,000 people responded to the call by numerous nature conservation and environmental protection organisations, among them EuroNatur, to demand that the European Commission retain the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). With success - the WFD for the protection of rivers will remain!
  • Protecting “Europe’s Amazon”: An extensive, largely unspoilt river system stretches out between Austria and Serbia in an area known as the Danube-Drava-Mura Region. Since 1990, EuroNatur has been campaigning, along with numerous partners, for it to be granted protected status. This finally happened in the summer of 2021, when the last section - in Austria - was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
The Sava in autumn

Autumn mood in the Sava floodplains

© Davorka Kitonic
  • Saving the Sava: Since its foundation, EuroNatur has been actively involved on the Sava River. We have saved the Danube’s largest tributary from countless construction projects so that, as far as possible, it has been able to retain its character as a river rather than just a waterway. Along the Sava, we are networking partners from four countries (Sava Parks Network) and improving the management of invasive species (Sava TIES) in the river catchment.

Partners: Public Institution Ljubljansko barje Nature Park (SL); Lonjsko Polje Nature Park Public Institution (HR); Public Institution Green Ring (HR); Public Company National Park "Una" LLC Bihać (BA); Centre for Environment (BA); Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province (RS); Nature Conservation Movement Sremska Mitrovica (RS); Public Enterprise "Vojvodinašume" (RS)


More information about our campaign "Save the Blue Heart of Europe" can be found at our campaign website

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Join in and help us!

You too can join the large circle of those who are committed to Europe's wild rivers. We are grateful for every donation or active contribution! By doing so, you will support an independent and networked civil society in Europe that is working powerfully to protect our fresh waters. Please use your opportunities to help!


How you can help


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

Sustaining membership

EuroNatur focuses on long-term nature conservation projects instead of quick fixes. With your regular donations, you give us the planning security we need.


The entire Aoos River in Greece and its tributaries are now protected

An important step was taken today by the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy with the designation of part of the catchment area of the…

Still plenty of room for improvement in the Western Balkans

There is still a long way to go for all the countries of the Western Balkans if they want to become members of the EU - especially when it comes to…

Skavica mega dam: Albanian court to scrutinise special law for U.S. contractor Bechtel

++ Constitutional complaint filed by NGOs accepted for trial ++ First milestone in fight against one of Europe’s largest reservoirs ++ Thousands of…

Growing opposition to Albanian airport

++ Bern Convention calls on Albania to stop airport construction near Narta Lagoon ++ Project in Vjosa Delta endangers thousands of migratory birds ++…

Controversial airport construction in Albanian protected area casts shadow as far as Munich

++ Operating company Munich Airport International (MAI) is linked to illegal Vlora airport ++ Construction to take place in protected area of special…

Disappointing results of last trilogue on Renewable Energy Directive

++ Woody biomass and hydropower can continue to count towards renewable energy targets ++ No will for sustainable climate policy in the EU in sight ++

Major success: River Vjosa becomes National Park

++ Today the Vjosa River in Albania has been proclaimed Europe’s first Wild River National Park ++ EuroNatur, Riverwatch and many other partners have…

Vjosa Wild River National Park: Feasibility Study is a major milestone

The Vjosa River in Albania, one of the last wild rivers of Europe, is one major step closer to protection today as the team of Albanian and…

Legal action against the Vlora Airport in Albania

New developments on the planned airport construction in the Narta lagoon: The lawsuit filed by our partners against the project was ruled as…