Good news for rivers! WWF Slovakia removes a dam thanks to a crowdfunding action

Posted on 23 June 2021

The removal today of the largest barrier on the Hučava river, in Slovakia, has come true after a flash citizens' fundraising action last month of December, through WWF's FreeTheRiverToday.com platform. Next month the Big Jump 2021 Simultaneous Dam Removal Crowdfunding will sentence 6 more dams to be banished, freeing many rivers in different European countries at the same time.
The Hučava river can finally flow free thanks to today's removal of its only barrier. This success was achieved thanks to dozens of donors that participated through the crowdfunding platform FreeTheRiverToday.com led by WWF and coordinated with different partners in the Dam Removal Europe coalition. In the past years the platform has witnessed hundreds of citizens funding dam removals in 13 other river barriers across Europe, may of which are also already demolished.
 

The Hučava river is an unspoilt stream born in the Biosphere Reserve Poľana, directly below the Veľká Poľana ridge (1458 meters above the sea level) and runs through 30 kilometres into the Zolná River.

Up to seven fish species can be found in the river, such as the brown trout, the alpine bullhead or the stone loach. Ichthyologic research has also confirmed the occurrence a ray-finned fish species Barbus peloponnesius, this species of Community interest listed in the Habitats Directive.The species was found right below the barrier, which prevents it from an upstream spawning migration. The site also provides an opportunity to spot the noble crayfish, eurasian otter, common kingfisher, white-throated dipper or white and black stork.
 
The first human intervention into the river flow starts in Očová village. The river was straightened out and deepened, original meanders have disappeared, the river banks were built up to protect the surrounding buildings. Two barriers were built on the river, the first one directly in the village – where a fish pass is planned to be built, and the other, which is just being removed, under the village. After the intervention on both barriers, 25 km of the river will be freed.
 
Removal of dams which are old and useless is the best way of freeing a river. It improves its ecological status and biodiversity, restores the function of the river landscape, including water retention, and thus contributes to the mitigation of climate crisis. Hučava dam removal is just a beginning. Together with other partners, we already finalise an evaluation of other river barriers suitable for removal," says Miroslava Plassmann, CEO of WWF Slovakia.
 
WWF Slovakia cooperates on monitoring and evaluating river barriers with the Slovak Water Management Enterprise and the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic. The list of barriers suitable for removal contained in the Water Plan of the Slovak Republic will be extended after WWF Slovakia finalises its work on reassessment of removal method.
 
European rivers are among the most fragmented in the world, the European Environment Agency says in the report. Barriers are one of the main reasons why 60% of rivers in Europe don’t have good ecological status and are a key cause of the decline in freshwater biodiversity. According to the WWF Living Planet Report 2020, average freshwater species populations have seen a steep 84% decline since 1970.
 
Contact

Andrea Settey Hajdúchová
WWF Slovakia – Media/PR, Tel: +421 908 700 857, Email: ahajduchova@wwfsk.org
 
Miro Očadlík
WWF Slovakia – Freshwater Manager, Tel: +421 902 550 521, Email: mocadlik@wwfsk.org

Eva Hernandez
WWF Living European Rivers Lead - ehernadez@wwf.es, Tel: +34 690 762 353

 
Hučava river weir being removed
© WWF
Hučava river weir being removed
© WWF