Creating dam removal opportunities in the Danube Gorges, Romania

Explore the opportunities for dam removal to increase the ecological connectivity in the Danube tributaries from the Banat catchment (Danube Gorges) and Maramureș and to open up at least 100km of rivers.

Introduction

The Danube River is the second largest European river and one of the most relevant in Europe from a nature value perspective. The 115 indigenous fish species represent about 20% of the European freshwater fish fauna. This fact depends on the considerable dimensions, great variability of habitats and east-to-west movement corridor for migration. The project will focus on the Southwestern Carpathians, the largest wilderness area in Romania. In this area are listed 439 barriers of up to eight m high, of which 387 are under two meters high, and 74 are degraded. The Romanian Waters Administration owns 85 barriers, the local communities own 86, and others have private owners, or their ownership is unclear.

At a glance

Project typeBarrier identification and prioritisation
Project statusComplete
CountryRomania
RiversCaraș, Berzasca, Valea Morii, Plavisevita
Key speciesHuso huso, Acipenser nudiventris, Acipenser ruthenus, Acipenser gueldenstaedtii, Acipenser sturio, Acipenser stellatus, Alosa immaculate, Alosa tanaica, Hucho hucho, Tinca tinca, Alburnus chalcoides, Alburnoides bipunctatus, Chondrostoma nasus, Barbus meridionalis, Carassius carassius, Phoxinus phoxinus, Salmo trutta fario, Anguilla anguilla, Lota lota, Pungitius platigaster, Cottus gobio, Thymallus thymallus, Orthrias barbatulus

Project context and opportunity

Romania has a rich river system, but many are impacted by hydro-technical infrastructure altering the lateral and longitudinal connectivity. Regulations and embankments have been the solutions at hand to prevent flood risks. Due to EU legislation, authorities only recently started considering solutions to restore lateral and longitudinal connectivity.

The improvement of the lotic systems by increasing the connectivity and reducing the fragmentation can fulfil their natural functions for the benefit of the socio-economic riverine human communities: better water quality, sediment transport, ecosystems resilience at climate change, no maintenance costs, enhanced recreational possibilities, reduced damage risk, etc. The river barriers and new climate conditions amplify the negative effects on biodiversity and human well-being. To reverse the trend, dam removal is a solution.

Project aims

The project partners aim to increase the ecological connectivity in the Danube tributaries from the Banat catchment (Danube Gorges) and Maramureș and to open up at least 100km of rivers to improve connectivity. To do this, they will

  • Identify dam removal hotspots that maximise benefits by conducting field surveys.
  • Collate data from existing sources and field surveys to support the strategic selection of dams for removal.
  • Bring stakeholders together to support the strategic selection of dams for removal, building awareness, capacity, and support that is replicable nationwide.

Project achievements

The project reached its objectives by studying the realistic potential for dam removal in the Banat catchment considering the ecological objectives, hydrotechnical potential, ownership and legal aspects. Through field visits, workshops with the local community and local and national authorities and data compilation, the project team, together with the experts involved in the project, had identified the actual feasibility of removing obsolete barriers on the Caraș River, proposing a technical solution to achieve better longitudinal connectivity. Moreover, the key authority (National Romanian Water Administration) is considering using the project results (including the prioritisation methodology) as part of the Romanian plan under the future Nature Restoration Law. In this way, the movement of dam removal has a high potential to be officially upscaled.

Project factsheet (in Romanian)

Partners

WWF Romania

Asociatia Ecotur Sibiu