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Open Rivers Programme Launched to Remove Dams and Restore Rivers across Europe 

Dam removal in Hucava river (Slovakia) in June 2021 ©Rob Kleinjans Photography

October 8, 2021 will be a day to remember! For the first time in European history a new and dedicated €42.5 million Open Rivers Programme is launched to restore rivers by removing dams. The Dam Removal Europe Coalition is proud to share and celebrate the launch of this programme with our network! We congratulate the new programme and it’s founders Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin from the ARCADIA Fund with this launch. We believe that this initiative will be a game changer for the upscaling process of dam removal in Europe. 

Read on for the official launch announcement from the Open Rivers Programme, and to learn more about why it’s past time to free Europe’s rivers! 

Before and after dam removal (Molló Dam, Spain) ©Agència Catalana de l’Aigua

What will the Open Rivers Programme do? 

The Open Rivers Programme will help restore European rivers by funding and supporting dam removal projects throughout the continent. Thanks to a €42.5 million investment over six years by the charitable fund Arcadia, the Programme will scale up dam removal and help Europe’s endangered rivers run free once again! 


European rivers are the most fragmented in the world which has led to the loss of many species and habitats. One of the biggest causes of river fragmentation is the presence of man-made barriers to river flow. 

Dam removal is a relatively cost effective and quick solution to restoring river continuity. This in turn can improve water quality, restore the diversity and abundance of life in rivers and their surrounding habitats and increase habitat connectivity and resilience. 

Varde Å River (Denmark) is revived after river restoration works, which included dam removal ©Herman Wanningen 

The Open Rivers Programme is launched to support dam removal projects and restore thousands of km of rivers across Europe 


 With over one million barriers in European rivers, there is a need to prioritise those that are able to be removed. The programme’s focus will be to support organisations and communities working to restore rivers by funding dam removal projects that have the greatest possible impact on restoring river ecosystems. 

Removal of Mjedvjezhiek Weir in Ukraine ©WWF Ukraine

The Open Rivers Programme will offer grants to: 

  1. Support the removal of small dams (up to 2 metres in height) in rivers. 
  2. Support essential preparatory work that will result in a dam removal.
  3. Support the dam removal movement so that dam removal becomes more widely accepted and implemented in order to restore more rivers across Europe.

The programme will offer its first grants in February 2022 by supporting a selection of “ready to go” dam removal projects that have been identified during its preparatory phase. It will also release a new call for Expressions of Interest on 12th November 2021, with projects due to start from May 2022. 

Dam in Hucava River Before Removal ©Zuzana Matusova


The mission of the Open Rivers Programme is to restore endangered European rivers by supporting interventions that lead to the removal of dams and the restoration of river flow and biodiversity. 

Its vision is for free-flowing rivers with healthy, diverse and connected ecosystems across Europe, which are enjoyed, valued, and protected by the communities that depend on them. 

The programme is managed by Stichting European Open Rivers Programme, a charitable foundation, registered in the Netherlands. 

A Programme Advisory Group supports the programme to ensure its strategy is aligned with other similar initiatives dedicated to river restoration in Europe. Members include: 

  • Dam Removal Europe (includes WWF, WFMF, ERN, RT, RE, WI and TNC)
  • European Centre for River Restoration
  • European Environment Agency,
  • Global Water Partnership,
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • Swansea University

Ready to grab your dam removal tools and start your grant application? We hope so!  

Be the first to receive important news from the programme by signing up for news updates. 

You can also read more on the website –

For further information, please contact: Jack Foxall, Executive Director, Open Rivers Programme; 

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