Free-flowing rivers without dams, demand scientists and activists on the premiere summit

15.10.2018 - SARAJEVO
PHOTO: Luka Tomac

Bosnia and Herzegovina hosted the first Europe-wide meeting for river protection “River Summit” in order to stop destruction of watercourses and return freedom to the rivers. Experts, locals and non-governmental organizations including Arnika has agreed on optimal future procedure. Their suggestions aim to help with the successful implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive by 2027.

Stop promoting hydropower projects and guarantee the right of citizens for healthy environment, 250 attendees from more than 30 countries demand in declaration. The statement is addressed to the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Energy Community, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and to the Heads of State of all countries in Europe.

According to Zuzana Vachůnová, the coordinator of the campaign Saving Balkan Rivers!, a strong European movement has started to develop. “Summit was attended by people for various fields – from activists and fishermen to journalists and academics. We can't just protect rivers, it's not enough. We need to actively help to return them to the original state as well. At the same time, we have to prioritize local communities as they are the first ones threatened by construction of new hydropower projects,” Arnika's expert summarized the ideas of international summit.

Arnika is working together with the bosnian-herzegovnian Centre for Environment (CZZS) on protection of wild rivers for two years now. Thanks to the Transition Promotion Program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, organizations strive to stop massive construction of new dams; in Bosnia and Herzegovina only it is intended to build over three hundreds of them.

„Hydropower is a destructive, outdated technology that, today, can be easily substituted with modern sources of renewable energy, such as solar power“, stated president of CZZS, Nataša Crnković to the RiverWatch.

Free-flowing rivers vanish
Almost two thirds of European rivers are in bad ecological state and according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) European watercourses are degraded to a point where they can no longer sustain functioning ecosystem. In the EU only, 25 000 hydropower plants are registered, according to the environmentalists from EEB. This figure does not include “small” hydropower plants – the actual figure is therefore much larger. 

Stream regulation brings about the list of irreversible problems. Apart from direct interventions to the environment, dams are a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions. Worldwide, between 500 and 750 million people suffer from direct or indirect impacts of dams.

Czech Republic is not one of the model states – construction of new hydropower projects is still under consideration. One of the big affairs is building steps in Děčín and in Přelouč, the construction on the river Elbe is supported even by the national government. However, benefits of those weirs are highly questionable. Moreover, both areas are located in nature protection areas and are items of the interest of the network Natura 2000.

The next River Summit will be held in Portugal in 2020.


Translated by Iveta Palúchová

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