First ever dam removals in Croatia

Posted on May, 30 2024

Historic project removes obsolete barriers within the Plitvice Lakes National Park
In another big boost to the river restoration movement in Europe, the first dam removals took place in Croatia in May – with seven barriers being demolished on the Bijela Rijeka river in the Plitvice Lakes National Park. One final barrier will be removed in the coming weeks.

The work was carried out by the National Park with support from WWF-Adria and funding from the European Open Rivers Programme.

The removal of the barriers, some of which were part of long abandoned mills, will enable the migration of Danube salmon to ancient spawning grounds for the first time in over a hundred years. However, the newly free-flowing river will also enhance the health of the extraordinary Plitvice Lakes World Heritage Site by allowing water, sediments and nutrients to flow naturally once again – helping to restore resilience to the wider ecosystem.

The removals are also a major milestone for Croatia, which joins a growing number of dam removal countries on the continent, and for the Dam Removal Europe coalition, which is working to accelerate removals in the Balkans – five years after WWF removed the first three dams in the region in Montenegro.

Following the removals, Croatian and international water experts, conservationists and dam removal practitioners gathered in Plitvice Lakes National Park for the first “National Seminar on River Barrier Removal” - organized by WWF Adria, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and the government’s Institute for Environment and Nature Protection,

The national seminar was organized with the aim of gathering all relevant stakeholders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors to form a network of organizations and institutions, as well as experts dealing with barrier removal issues who want to learn more about the topic.

Removing barriers from rivers restores the natural flow dynamics, allows the migration of fish and other species living in the rivers, and significantly reduces the risk of floods and droughts. Rivers naturally perform numerous functions that benefit both individuals and communities, from providing drinking water and food to regulating the effects of climate change. Therefore, initiatives to remove barriers are extremely important for both nature and people.
First dam removals in Croatia
© WWF-Adria
Plitvice Lakes World Heritage Site, Croatia, will benefit from first dam removals in the country
© WWF-Adria