Save the blue heart of Europe
For many years it has been the secret knowledge of “insiders” – riverine communities, a few NGO representatives, fly fishers, kayakists: the Blue Heart of Europe beats on the Balkan Peninsula. Nowhere else on the continent can one find such a tremendous number and variety of pristine, wild rivers, crystal clear streams, extensive gravel banks, untouched alluvial forests, deep gorges, spectacular waterfalls, and even karstic underground rivers which mysteriously flood the surface during extreme rainfall and snow melt in autumn and spring. What’s more, these rivers are one of the most important hotspots for European biodiversity, especially fish and molluscs, hosting many threatened as well as endemic species. Rare vegetation communities and water depended fauna can be found not only in these very rivers, but also in adjacent alluvial habitats.
However, this unique European treasure is threatened. The rivers of the Balkans are to be dammed on a large scale. 2,796 hydropower plants (including small plants with a capacity of 0-1 MW) are projected to be built in the next few years – commonly with support of businesses and loans from inside the European Union and beyond. Not even the most striking and valuable river stretches – even if located inside a national park – are to be spared. The Blue Heart of Europe is at risk of a heart attack.
This whole story is relatively unknown to the public and even to many experts in the fields of ecology and nature conservation. Through our international campaign (http://www.balkanrivers.net/) we want to change this situation.
Organisations EuroNatur and RiverWatch in cooperation with local partners, launched this campaign in four key areas: Vjosa river in Albania, Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia, Sava river in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
Campaign goals for the next 3 years are:
- to raise public awareness about Balkan Rivers, their ecological values and vulnerability
- to stop dam projects in the key areas
- to coordinate the development of a master plan with no-go areas for dam construction for all Balkan rivers to improve knowledge about the biodiversity of those rivers playing a crucial role in terms of biological connectivity and endemism in the region.
We want to save the unique rivers of the Balkans by preserving the most valuable streams and stretches with regard to ecology and biodiversity. They shall be preserved for the benefit of nature, biodiversity, and of the people for whom these rivers have a deep symbolic and cultural meaning, as well as for those coming from farer distance seeking to experience the last untouched rivers in Europe. We believe that the economic future of the Balkan countries can be more sustainably stimulated by conserving their natural treasures and keeping their potential for sustainable socio-economic development available for future generations.