Rivers are eternal, dams are not!

Recently, in Belgrade was held the meeting of “Balkan Rivers Days”. This was the first meeting of the major initiative for the European rivers, which brought together representatives of NGOs, civic initiatives, fishermen, kayakers, scientists, journalists and more rivers lovers, to discuss how to protect the rivers of the Balkan Peninsula from the uncontrolled dam construction craze.

There was no press conference, but the meeting provided a great opportunity to communicate with many of European countries river’s representatives as well as from USA, gaining the most recent information and data related to the Balkan rivers and their threats.


© Anze Osterman

For this purpose at GRAD cultural centre, just at Sava riverside were gathered about 120 participants from 18 different countries. It was a diverse group in every respect, but with one thing in common, the love for nature and especially for the rivers. Two years old Luisa was there on her stroller and her German-French parents who were looking after her in a Spartan way by taking care that she doesn’t miss any session. Although not young, the Italian lady, Paola, living and working in Sarajevo, was wandering talking and moving with boundless energy, also ubiquitous Ulli, the German from Vienna, Zoe the Serbian from London, Rok-the broad-shouldered from Slovenia, lead author of the Vjosa movie, Linda from Tunisia, a student in France, Theresa and Cony, the colleagues of Ulu and Gabriel, two leading organizers of the meeting, and the oldest in age, Roberto Apple, the protagonist of the salvation of the Loire River in France.

I can ensure you that we’ve been exhausted but we did learn a lot!

The Balkan rivers constitute a European natural treasure which is unfortunately still little known. No other region in Europe, has such large number of “living” rivers. However, over 2700 HPPs are planned to be built between Slovenia and Albania. To save this natural heritage from destruction by uncontrolled craze of dam’s construction, EuroNatur and Riverwatch, organizers of this event have started since 2010 the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign.

Just for general information: Along the Balkan rivers there are already 668 existing dams, 2706planned, while 66 of them are under construction. Worldwide there are identified two giant “hot spots” of existing dams: in the Latin America rivers, mainly in the Amazon basin and in the Himalayas rivers of the mountain, but currently Balkan Peninsula is competing with the above mentioned figures by building hydro power plants with less than 10 MW, sometimes “just for fun” and. Who needs these useless hydro- powers, except hydropower owners who have received these concessions as a “gift” by generous Balkan governments? Who do we need these hydropower plants since most of them are being built to harm residents and all people in general?

Unfortunately in this destruction race the protagonists are often some of the largest investors in the world such as the EBRD, EIB, World Bank, IFC, KfW, while they must give sustainable development models. Since they are “not allowed” to invest in their countries’ destruction, these banks are trying to find paths to build hydro-powers in the Balkans.

One thing is more or less clear:

Environmentalists generally are in permanent opposition to all governments that in different ways aspire to act towards self-enrichment, whether is this legal or not. Environmentalists do not require power and do not get attracted of it, and this is one of the strongest weapons which if it joins the passion for nature protection, it gets hardly breakable. They showed examples of successful campaigns in the Balkans for the rivers Tara, Lim, and Sutjeska, especially ten years long campaigns for Hainburg area on the Danube near Vienna and above all it to the Loire River campaign in France was perhaps the most successful and impressive.

Following their presentations and hearing them while they were talking with passion for what they’ve done one could easily get the main message that: rivers are eternal while dams are not?

The original article in Albanian language published at JAVA Magazine you can find it here.

From Vera Bekteshi