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On May 6, 2024, the works for the barrier removal in Croatia started on the Bijela Rijeka stream, marking a milestone in Croatia’s river restoration efforts. The kick-off of the project was later celebrated at the “National Seminar on River Barrier Removal” held at Plitvice Lakes National Park on May 22-23, 2024.

Bijela Rijeka river restoration

Plitvice Lakes National Park © WWF Adria 

The National Seminar on River Barrier Removal

The event, organised by WWF Adria, Plitvice Lakes National Park, and relevant ministries, with support from the Institute for Environment and Nature Protection, gathered water and nature conservation experts to discuss the impact and future of barrier removal initiatives. The seminar featured presentations on the Dam Removal Europe movement and examples of successful barrier removal projects. This event is also part of the project “Scaling up dam removal: implementation plan for Southeastern Europe” led by the World Fish Migration Foundation and supported by the European Open Rivers Programme. 

Panel discussions discussed the challenges and future of barrier removal in Croatia, emphasizing the necessity of intersectoral cooperation and continuous education on the importance of removing barriers. Experts from Plitvice Lakes presented their pioneering project on the Bijela Rijeka Stream, alongside the “Improve River Life” project, aimed at mapping artificial barriers and identifying priority restoration sites. 

Bijela Rijeka river restoration

National Seminar on River Barrier Removal © WWF Adria 

The Bijela Rijeka restoration project

Out of the total eight artificial barriers, WWF Adria has secured works with machinery to remove four large concrete barriers, while the Plitvice Lakes National Park is managing four. Minor interventions are still needed to remove one final barrier. 

According to WWF Adria, “in Plitvice Lakes National Park, artificial barriers are located on the Bijela Rijeka stream, only 4.5 kilometers long. It is intersected by about thirty mills and old sawmills that no longer serve their function.” The expert management of the Park, through the WWF Adria project, is removing them and returning the Bijela Rijeka to its natural course.

Bijela Rijeka river restoration

Barrier removal in progress © WWF Adria 

Thanks to WWF Adria efforts and the European Open Rivers Programme support, the project will free a total of eight kilometres of river, restore the stream’s natural course, facilitate the migration of Danube salmon, and reconnect Bijela Rijeka with Crna Rijeka, aligning with the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.

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