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© Aqua Viva – WWF Switzerland

Dams are coming down all over Europe: New report reveals another record-breaking year for dam removal in 2022 with a new country joining the movement

The dam removal movement set a new record in Europe in 2022 with at least 325 river barriers coming down across the continent – a 36% increase on the previous record set in 2021.

As was the case in 2021, most of the removed barriers were weirs, as these structures have a high probability of being old and obsolete and can be removed in a cost-efficient way.

Several factors have contributed to the new numbers such as newly available funding opportunities, like the Open Rivers Programme, the coordinated efforts of national and regional public authorities to report removed barriers, and the hype created by findings of last year’s report disseminated all around Europe.

The podium gathered no new champions, with Spain affirming its place as the European leader in dam removal, followed by Sweden and France. However, new faces joined the movement. Luxembourg recorded its first-ever barrier removals by removing a weir. The removal was part of a bigger project aimed to restore the ecological continuity of the Pétrusse River.

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“We started a riverlution, but only with the joint action of river practitioners, authorities, policymakers, and citizens, will be possible to achieve the EU Biodiversity Strategy targets”.

Herman WanningenDirector of the World Fish Migration Foundation

Map of European countries that reported barrier removals in 2022. Color gradient refers to the number of removals per country

Given the latest developments in European climate policy and the Commission’s proposal for a Nature Restoration Law it is important to keep highlighting dam removal as a crucial tool to accomplish ecosystem restoration and celebrating success stories across Europe. 

Moreover, barrier removal also contributes to the global Freshwater Challenge to restore 300,000km of degraded rivers by 2030, a goal launched at the UN Water Conference held in New York in March.

It has been found that over 1,2 million barriers fragment European rivers, with many being obsolete. Among the several harmful consequences is biodiversity loss, with a decline of 93% in freshwater migratory fish populations in Europe and 76% on a global level. The alarming numbers ask for cost-effective and efficient solutions to restore rivers.

Dam removal has been paving its way in nature restoration tools – a trend has been confirmed across Dam Removal Europe’s annual reports.

Read the report

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