European Rivers Summit

                    ” Dam Busters – Restoring Europe’s rivers” – a policy discussion

From 28 the of September till 1st of October, in Bruxelles, Belgium, the 3rd European River Summit was organized by Wetlands International EuropeEuroNaturGEOTARiverwatch and WWF Adria

The European Rivers Summit aims are to inspire a movement of connected citizens in Europe to protect and restore European rivers, fight new dams and remove obsolete barriers. Healthy rivers are essential to delivering the European Green Deal and we aim to connect river champions around Europe to policy-makers in Brussels”.

For the first day of the conference a policy discussion “Dam busters” restoring Europeans Rivers, was organised by WWF and MEP César Luena in the European Parliament. This policy event was mainly concentrated on the restoration of free-flowing rivers in Europe. In its Biodiversity Strategy, the EU has committed to restoring at least 25,000km of free-flowing rivers by 2030 in Europe, largely through the removal of obsolete barriers.

The event started with the welcome speech by MEP Cesar Luena, and then continued with the projection of the short movie, #LetstalkaboutFishSex, that talked about how to help migratory fish ( salmon,trout,…) to reproduce.

The second short movie that was shown was  “Dam Busters – Restoring Europe’s Rivers about how dam removal can be achieved and displays the benefits for both nature and people. The film shows why the EU must agree to uphold its commitment to river restoration as part of the upcoming EU Nature Restoration Law, and why removal projects must secure both public and private funding.

 After the movie, the event continued with the panel discussion on the EU Nature Restoration Law and the need to include an ambitious framework for the restoration of free-flowing rivers, with distinguished speakers from the European Parliament and the Member States.

In the Panel discussion  there were 6 panelists:

  • Lukáš Záruba, director of the Department of Water Protection of the Czech Ministry of Environment;
  • Joné Leščinskaitė, Advisor, Ministry of Environment of Lithuania;
  • MEP Michal Wiezik;
  • Olivier Tricca, Senior Engineer and Energy expert, European Investment Bank;
  • Sampsa Vilhunen, Head of Marine and Freshwaters environment programme, WWF Finland;
  • Pao Fernández Garrido, Dam Removal Europe project manager, World Fish Migration Foundation.

Moderator was Rita Rodrigues, ANP/WWF

Panelists during discussion

During the panel, the participants talked about bustering the dams,  mostly ones that are no longer in use, like one on the river Saone in France. In addition, one of the solutions is also to improve the situation in functioning dams so that migrating fish can migrate more easily.

Deputy Lukáš Záruba from Czech Ministry of Environment said it is essential to remove obsolete banners.

In Lithuania, 41 % of the dams have no function, 40 % are state-owned, but there is a lack of awareness about dam removal”, explained Joné Leščinskaitė, Advisor, Ministry of Environment of Lithuania

In Finland it is necessary to have a more integrated approach while building new dams, already they have invested 100 million euros in dams removal, 50 million € from the state and 50 million € from the local municipalities. Already, they have removed 50 dams in Finland, first only small dams, and now they remove even larger hydropower dams, clarified Sampsa Vilhunen from WWF Finland.

In Spain, there is also a huge lack of knowledge about dam removal, because people see them as a positive thing because of lack of knowledge and facts; like that with dam removal you can improve water quality, fish population and create more jobs. People think that dams can help as a water reservoir, but usually, it is not the case” explained Pao Fernández Garrido, Dam Removal Europe project manager, World Fish Migration Foundation explained during the panel.

The panel finished with Q & A, one of the questions was how to replace the energy that we will lose with dams deconstruction, and the answer was that most of the dams that are destroyed are not anymore in function, and the ones that were in function are small village dams that don’t create too much energy.

WWF movie

Pictures source: European River Summit web page