Last Thursday, the European Wilderness Society team participated at the Students for Rivers Camp, organised by the Balkan River Defence movement in Kobarid, Slovenia. The event aimed to connect young river conservationists and a kick-off of River Intellectuals Network. The Network aims to connect students and professors that believe the rivers shoud be kept wild. European Wilderness Society also gave a talk on the work that we are doing to keep the rivers wild.
At the camp, we heard talks from many young and enthusiastic students who are a part of river conservation movement. This includes activists, scientists, members of various NGOs from all over the world – from Chile to Albania. We also took part in a brainstorming session of how to empower River Intellectuals even further.
Balkan River Defence
Balkan River Defence is a movement to defend the last free-flowing rivers in the Balkans from damming. The Balkans are the last European region with many wild rivers. However, there are many plans to build new hydro-electric powerplants which would destroy the rivers. Therefore, the Balkan River Defence is organising a three-week long Balkan Rivers Tour, which includes protests and kayaking down the free rivers in Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Damming rivers causes damage to the natural world for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, the water temperature increases, while the oxygen content decreases, which affects the biodiversity of the river. Furthermore, sediments are not transported to the sea anymore, which changes the flood protection ability. Also, the lack of sediments downstream reduces biodiversity as there are fewer gravel banks that are a valuable habitat for animals. Additionally, dams prevent fish migration which is a crucial part of the lifecycle of some species like Danube salmon or European eel.
European Wilderness Society is trying hard to preserve Europe’s last wild rivers through our WILDRivers Network. Some of the rivers in the network include Velyka Uholka WILDRiver in Finland and Thaya WILDRiver in Austria.