In Ukraine, the removal of the Bayurivka Dam on Perkalaba River will enable protected fish, including brook trout and Danube salmon, to return. Photo Credit: WWF UkraineEnvironment Europe
Here’s Some Dam Good News for Rivers
Across Europe, the removal of river barriers is gaining momentum, and a record number of them have been dismantled this year, allowing rivers to regain their natural flow and fish to return to their breeding areas.
“These numbers make me proud because we’re doing a lot to mainstream dam removal, and it works,” says Herman Wanningen, director of the World Fish Migration Foundation, and founder of Dam Removal Europe. “Removing barriers to restore rivers’ natural flow and connectivity brings many ecosystem service benefits, such as flood protection, water purification, and recreational opportunities.”
At least 325 river barriers have been taken down in 16 countries, a 36% increase from the previous year when 239 barriers were removed. According to Dam Removal Europe, Spain finished in first place for the second year – with 133 removals in 2022 – followed by Sweden and France. As for the UK, a total of 29 barriers have been dismantled, including the Bowston Weir on the River Kent, home to white-clawed crayfish, freshwater pearl mussels, and water crowfoot, an oxygenating plant. Barriers can take the shape of dams, weirs, culverts, and levees, and 150,000 of them are considered obsolete, even risking collapsing. Latvia and Luxembourg have removed their first barriers this year, joining in the fight for freeing rivers. “I hope the European Commission accepts the new Nature Restoration Law this summer, which will give a solid policy base for member states to implement dam removal to restore 25,000km of rivers and maybe more.”