Europe’s Record Dam Removal.

26 May 2022.


According to the 2021 Dam Removal Progress report, around 239 dams were removed from rivers across 17 European countries. This is a 137% increase from the previous year. Till now 4,984 dams have been removed.

Highlights of Findings:

  • It is a report prepared by Dam Removal Europe (DRE), an organization working to restore rivers in Europe.
  • The report helps countries of Europe to track the progress and impact of the dam removal and restoration of the rivers.
  • In 2021, Spain removed the highest number of barriers over its rivers (108). Countries like Portugal, Montenegro, and Slovakia removed riverine barriers for the first time.
  • There is an increase in the total number of dam removals and also the number of countries that removed dams. In 2021, there was a 55% increase in the number of European countries which reported their dam removal statistics as compared to the previous year.

About  barrier removal:

  • A barrier must be removed through its full vertical extent so that most of the stream can pass through, thereby allowing environmental or ecological flow (e-flow).
  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ecological or environmental flow refers to water required for a water body to maintain ecosystems where flows are regulated.
  •  Mere bypasses and technical fishways will not qualify as barrier removals.

Why should the dams be removed:

  • Dams fragment rivers and destroy the habitat for species belonging to riverine ecosystems.
  • They disrupt the routes of migratory fish. According to the analysis by the World Fish Migration Foundation, migratory freshwater fish in Europe have declined by 93%.
  • Loss of fish severely affects the livelihoods of fishermen, which sometimes outweighs the value of the power produced by hydroelectric dams.
  •  Huge sedimentation caused by dams threatens the structural integrity of dams and can lead to flash floods, thereby threatening the life of people downstream.

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