250 people attend Summit to save Europe’s rivers and stop the damming ++ Participants call upon EU and Heads of State to stop funding hydropower.

Sarajevo, September 30th, 2018. Between September 27th and 29th, Sarajevo became the center of European river conservationists and dam opponents. At the first European Rivers Summit, about 250 people from over 30 countries discussed how to stop the destruction of Europe’s rivers from hydropower, how to protect the last free-flowing river jewels in the long run and how to restore those already destroyed (a full list of topics can be found in the Summit Program).

Participants formulated a list of demands addressed to relevant decision makers in politics and industry. In this declaration, Europe’s river conservationists call upon the European Commission, the Energy Community, international banks and national governments to stop promoting and funding hydropower projects as green and renewable energy source and tighten environmental criteria. These demands aim to help the successful implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive in order to bring rivers back to a good ecological state by 2027.

Today, rivers are the most threatened habitats on Earth. 81% of global freshwater wildlife populations have been lost – higher than in any other ecosystem. According to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) European waterways are degraded to a point where they can no longer sustain functioning ecosystems. The main threat to river’s health is the massive expansion of hydropower, boosted by the green myth and funding methods such as feed-in tariffs.  In EU, 25,000 hydropower plants are registered, according to the EEB. This figure does not even include small hydropower plants – the actual figure is therefore much larger. Almost two thirds of European rivers are in a bad ecological state.

“We have to stop the dam craze. Europe’s rivers have long paid for our energy-hungry lifestyle with their integrity. The last intact rivers must remain free-flowing“, says Ulrich Eichelmann, CEO of Riverwatch.

Hydropower plants not only fundamentally destroy the biodiversity of riverine habitats but also turn a dynamic river into a monotonous stagnant waterbody. Moreover, hydropower is not even a carbon-neutral source of energy as dam reservoirs are a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions. In addition, dams also have dire social costs. Worldwide, between 500 and 750 million people suffer from direct or indirect impacts of dams,

“Hydropower is a destructive, outdated technology that, today, can be easily substituted with modern sources of renewable energy, such as solar power“, Natasa Crnkovic, president of the Center for Environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Fortunately, there is one region in Europe which still hosts free-flowing rivers: the Balkans. However, even these last jewels are under massive attack by about 2,800 projected hydropower plants. To make a statement against this destruction, the first European Rivers Summit was held in Sarajevo. Starting this year, a European Rivers Summit will be held every two years in a different region in Europe. The next summit will be held in Portugal in 2020.


Background Information

The First European Rivers Summit was carried out by Riverwatch (Austria) and the Center for Environment (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and organized within the framework of a newly formed alliance of several European NGOs with the purpose to save Europe’s rivers and stop the dams. These organisations include Riverwatch, EuroNatur, WWF Adria, Wetlands International, and Rios livres (GEOTA) from Portugal.

Big finish of the Summit was the Concert for Balkan Rivers in the Sarajevo city centre, organized with in the campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”. Popular musicians Rambo Amadeus (Montenegro), Eda Zari (Albania), Tamara Obrovac (Croatia) and Damir Imamovic (Bosnia-Herzegovina) raised their voices for free Balkan rivers and against the dams in front of hundreds of people.




News post about the summit


Declaration: European Rivers Programme 2027 DOWNLOAD


Declaration for DOWNLOAD (Participants formulated a list of demands addressed to relevant decision makers in politics and industry.)



Main Presentations (Photos © Nick St.Oegger)

The Situation of Balkan Rivers: Save the Blue Heart of Europe
The Situation of Balkan Rivers: Save the Blue Heart of Europe
Ulrich Eichelmann/ Riverwatch, Gabriel Schwaderer/ EuroNatur Foundation.

Follow the money: Who is financing the dam boom? Banks and state subsidies
Pippa Gallop and Igor Vejnovic/ CEE Bankwatch Network.

Small isn’t beautiful:  about small dams in the Balkans
Mato Gotovac/ WWF Adria.

Water Framework Directive: What´s going on in Brussels regarding river policies?
Eef Silver/ Wetlands International.
Presentation | Summary

De-growth economy: How to stop climate change without destroying our nature?
Prof. Dr. Niko Paech/ environmental economist.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act: Vision for protection of European rivers 
John Zablocki/ The Nature Conservancy and David Moryc/ American Rivers.
Presentation | Video

Dam Removal Europe and AMBER: reconnecting European Rivers
Jeroen van Herk/ Dam Removal Europe and Ruedi Bösiger/ WWF Switzerland.
Presentation | Summary

Ideas Corner (Participant section) (Photos © Nick St.Oegger)

Free Flow Camp
Vera Knook / Netherlands / River Intellectuals, Balkan River Defence.
Presentation | Summary

Want to Save Your River? The global Waterkeeper Alliance wants to help you!
Gary Wockner / USA / Waterkeeper Alliance.

How the rivers changed my life!
Pascal Rösler / Germany / Pure Water for Generations.
Presentation | Video

2018 Vjosa canoe scientific expedition – opportunities for a river and its residents
Aurélien Rateau / France / Destination rivières.

River Contracts: a voluntary tool for river protection
Romina D’Ascanio / Italy / Università Roma Tre and Giancarlo Gusmaroli / Italy / CIRF – Italian Centre for River Restoration.
Presentation | Summary

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act as Climate Adaptation Policy for Ecosystem Resilience
Denielle Marie Perry / USA / Northern Arizona University.

Green zones for Blue Rivers
Aleksandra Bujaroska / Macedonia / Front 21/42.

Youth Engagement and Young Action for Rivers
Magdalena Vallazza / Austria / WWF Austria.

River pollution: Biological early warning systems to detect pollution sources: methods and examples
Almut Gerhardt / Germany / LimCo International GmbH.
Presentation | Summary

Synergy between many Serbian organisations and few thousand people will save the rivers
Goran Tokic / Serbia / United Anglers of Serbia.

Your River, your fight (Participant section) (Photos © Nick St.Oegger)

Bosnia & Herzegovina:  Ambasada Neretva – The river and people: Protecting Neretva through generations, with culture and presence 
Omar Šelo / Ambasada Neretva.

Albania: Valbona – Enivronmental protection forces the whole system
Catherine Bohne / TOKA.

Struggles against dams and river diversions in Northwestern Greece
Ioannis Papadimitriou / Ioannina Ecological Organizations Net.
Presentation | Summary

Serbia: Battle for Old mountain
Nensila Radojkovic / Defend rivers of Old mountain.
Presentation | Video

Hydropower in Italy, the “green” energy threatening the last natural rivers
Andrea Goltara / CIRF – Italian Centre for River Restoration.

Our fight for the blue heart of Italy
Giovanna Deppi / Coordinamento Nazionale Tutela Fiumi – Free Rivers Italia.
Presentation | Summary

Austria: The Tyrolean Lech: A comeback in two acts
Anna Schöpfer / University of Innsbruck.
Presentation | Summary

Portugal: Fighting projects, plans and the vision of new hydropower as green infrastructure
Ana Brazão / Rios Livres GEOTA.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Current situation of Danube salmon in Una river and its sensitivity to dam construction
Boris Davidov / Society for research and protection of biodiversity.

Polish river pearls – union of people towards better protection of Polish rivers
Ewa Leś and Maria Staniszewska / Save The Rivers Coalition (KRR) and Polish Ecological Club.
Video 1 | Video 2

Greece: Acheloos S.O.S.
Pinelopi Stamati / Mesohora – Acheloos SOS.
Presentation | Summary

Small river devastation in Montenegro – action for protection
Vuk Ikovic / NGO KOD.

Flow:Europe – For the Love of Water
Tobias Schäfer / flow:Europe / Living Rivers Foundation.

Albania: Beyond the destruction of the nature and the culture of Kelmend – its habitants are asking for help
Martine Wolff / NGO for a future in Kelmend.
Presentation | Summary

Bosnia & Herzegovina: HPP Jablanica: Human Rights violations of the population from the submerged areas of the Jablaničko lake
Asja Boric / The Citizen Association of the Submerged Areas of Lisičići.

Greece: Rivers and streams in Attica-Athens – Struggles to save the few ones still alive
Evangelia Dimitriou / Ilioupolis’ Citizens’ Movement.
Presentation | Summary | Full Speech

About the European Rivers Summit 2021

3 Days for All River Lovers, Activists, NGOs and Experts.

Join us and hundreds of activists and specialists to share knowledge, network and plan together to defend and protect Rivers, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the World.

Climate Change, Impact on Freshwater, Perverse Public Subsidies on Electric Production, River Protection and Restoration Measures, Dams Removal and Environmental Justice are some of the topics that will be addressed. Follow us to get all further updates on the European Rivers Summit (ERS) Lisbon 2021.

Most Importantly, get to know the 2021 Event Program by clicking here.

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