Rowing against the “tsunami” of HPPs.

The great Kayak Tour to save the rivers of the Balkans starts today

Bohinj, Slovenia, April 16, 2016. Today, around 150 kayakers kicked off the Balkan River Tour on the Sava River in Slovenia. Led by former Slovenian Olympic athlete Rok Rozman, kayakers from all over Europe will, over the next 35 days, navigate the most stunning and at the same time most threatened rivers of the Balkans. This is the first organization of this size in Europe. With this tour, they are taking a clear stand against the current “tsunami” of dam construction: around 2,700 hydropower plants are slated to be built from Slovenia to Albania.

The starting signal for this tour was given starting at Lake Bohinj in the Triglav National Park, through which the main branch of the Sava River passes. On the lake, kayakers posed next to the message “Save our rivers – stop the dams” Over the next five weeks, kayakers will paddle 18 different rivers starting in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania . Special events are planned in many river segments to support local initiatives in their fight against HPP construction projects.

About 150 kayakers started the Balkan River Tour on Lake Bohinj in Slovenia today. (c) M. Oblak

“This unique activity shows that the Balkan Rivers are more than just suppliers of megawatt/hours. They are ‘lifelines’ that provide recreational value for people and habitats for species. We must protect this European natural heritage from the greed of companies and banks for profit,” says Ulrich Eichelmann (Riverwatch), coordinator of the “Save Europe’s Blue Heart” campaign.

Most of the projects have not yet been implemented, but the pressure is on. “When I was a child my dream was to win the Olympic medal in river rowing. Now as an adult, my main goal is to protect these rivers. I haven’t won the medal, but I will do everything I can to help in the protection of rivers in the Balkans. I invite kayakers from all over Europe to join this tour and support us in this effort,” says Rok Rozman, organizer of the Balkan River Tour.

The former Olympic athlete, Rok Rozman, the organizer of the Balkan River Tour. (c) J. Pirnat

It is no coincidence that the tour starts in the Slovenian part of the Sava. Almost every free-flowing section of this river is threatened by hydropower projects, even within protected areas or sections that harbor populations of threatened species such as the Danube salmon (Hucho hucho). “We cannot ask other – often poor – countries to protect their rivers while we ourselves allow our hydropower lobby to destroy almost every meter of the Sava in Slovenia. We must stop this dam building mania “, emphasizes Neza Posnjak, coordinator of the campaign “Saving the blue heart of Europe” Slovenia.

The tour will end with the submission of the request for the protection of Vjosa to the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama on May 20. Vjosa is the last, “wild” river in Europe (outside of Russia), in which hydropower projects are also planned. “We want to prevent the construction of these dams and instead we are doing our best to protect the Vjosa along its entire length as a National Park. This would constitute the first National Park of a natural river in all of Europe. “, says Tereza Schiller, coordinator of the campaign “Saving the blue heart of Europe”, at the Foundation for Natural Heritage EURONATUR.

Kayakers gathered in Lake Bohinj in protest against the construction of HPPs in the rivers of the Balkans. (c) J. Pirnat

According to Martin Šolar, director of WWF Adria, these rivers from the Dinaric Alps to the southern depths of the Balkan Peninsula are the “lifeways” of the region: “We are working on several rivers throughout the Balkans and dams are the most serious problem that these rivers are facing. A hotspot of incredible biodiversity is at risk. For this reason, we are happy to join forces and support this tour.”

The opening event of the Sava tour was supported by local initiatives for outdoor activities and the Board of Tourism, Bohinj.

Additional information about the Balkan River Tour

  • Tour Plan, Tour Map
  • The Balkan River Tour is an activity organized within the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign, which was initiated by “EuroNatur” and “RiverWatch” in order to protect the Balkan rivers from destruction through uncontrolled development. construction of hydropower plants. The Balkan River Tour is a joint initiative of the Leeway Collective, EuroNatur, Riverwatch and WWF Adria supported by Patagonia, the Mava Foundation and the Manfred-Hermsen Foundation
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