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Exchange of experiences on removing artificial barriers in Croatia

Removing artificial barriers from rivers restores the natural flow dynamics, allows the migration of fish and other river-dwelling species, and significantly reduces the risk of floods and droughts.

PLITVICE LAKES – Following the commencement of barrier removal from the Bijela Rijeka stream earlier in May, water and nature conservation experts in Croatia gathered today in Plitvice Lakes National Park, where the “National Seminar on River Barrier Removal” is being held at the "Jezero" hotel.

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.

The national seminar, organized by WWF Adria, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and the relevant ministry with the Institute for Environment and Nature Protection, has an international character. The Dam Removal Europe movement was presented, as well as a concrete example of dam removal from France. Experts from Plitvice Lakes National Park presented the current project of the first barrier removal in Croatia on the Bijela Rijeka stream, and the extensive “Improve River Life” project implemented by the Institute was also presented. This project will create a register of artificial barriers in Croatian watercourses and a list of priority locations for restoration by removing or ensuring passability through various adaptations.

A panel discussion that followed at the end of the seminar addressed the challenges and future of barrier removal in Croatia, with participation from Aljoša Duplić, Director of the Institute for Environment and Nature Protection, Valerija Musić from Croatian Waters, Domagoj Lažeta from JU More i Krš, Andrijana Brozinčević from Plitvice Lakes National Park, and WWF Adria's Conservation Director, Dunja Mazzocco Drvar. The panel concluded that intersectoral cooperation and continuous education through communication about the importance of removing natural and artifitial barriers on rivers are essential. The panelists agreed that the removal of barriers from the Bijela Rijeka is just the beginning, as well as the mapping being conducted through the “Improve River Life” project.

Barrier removal is a lengthy process that we still have much to learn about because, as shown by examples from other countries, there is a lot we do not know. Therefore, it is crucial to rely on experiences from other countries like France, where more than one hundred thousand barriers have been removed, while we can boast of the first seven in Croatia. To make the Bijela Rijeka completely barrier-free, only one more removal is needed.

The good news is that funds for barrier removal in Croatia are planned through various funds, mapping and counting of barriers that need to be removed is being conducted, experiences from abroad are being collected, and now this needs to be replicated as quickly as possible in as many places as possible.

Besides being harmful to nature and its wildlife, barriers are also dangerous to people. According to the recently published Dam Removal Europe report, 82 incidents caused by river barriers have been recorded so far, resulting in 129 casualties. The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 aims to free at least 25,000 km of watercourses.

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. The seminar was organized through WWF’s project within which Plitvice Lakes National Park is removing barriers from the Bijela River, and it is being implemented with the support of the European Open Rivers program, a grant-giving organization dedicated to river restoration.
© WWF Adria
National Seminar on River Barrier Removal in the Plitvice Lakes National Park


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