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Dam Fine Work: Record Number Removed in Europe

A record number of river barriers, including dams and weirs, were removed across Europe in 2022, with at least 325 taken down in 16 countries, allowing rivers to flow freely and migratory fish to reach breeding areas.

Perkalaba River in Ukraine
Credit: WWF Ukraine

In its annual report, Dam Removal Europe said Spain led the way for the second year with 133 removals, followed by Sweden and France. The UK completed 29 removals. The year’s largest known project was the removal of La Roche qui Boit hydropower dam on the Sélune River in France.

One of the more surprising removals was the obsolete Bayurivka dam in Ukraine, where WWF-Ukraine’s river restoration work continued, despite Mad Vlad's 'special military operation'. Taking out the 6m (18ft) dam in the Carpathian mountains opened 27km (17 miles) of the Perkalaba River to migratory fish to return, such a brook trout and Danube salmon, for the first time in 120 years.

“These numbers make me proud because we’re doing a lot to mainstream dam removal, and it works,” said Herman Wanningen, director of the World Fish Migration Foundation (WFMF) and founder of Dam Removal Europe. “It shows countries are picking up speed on implementing this river restoration tool.”

Two countries - Latvia and Luxembourg - completed removals for the first time. “Sometimes the smallest projects make a difference for an entire country,” said Wanningen.

Almost 75 percent of the barriers removed were weirs, followed by culverts and dams. At least 10 hydropower dams were dismantled in England, Finland, France, Norway, Spain and Sweden.

The number of removals was a 36 percent increase from the previous year when there were 239 removals.

“Removing barriers to restore rivers’ natural flow and connectivity brings many ecosystem service benefits, such as flood protection, water purification, and recreational opportunities,” said Wanningen.



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