Making upper part of Zeta River free flowing

Scaling up dam removal in Montenegro by improve ecological status of upper part of Zeta river catchment.


The upper part of the Zeta River flows through the Nikšić field where the river sinks in Slivlje ponor. The lower parts of the Zeta River erupt at Glava Zete in the mountain Planinica and flows through the Zeta valley for approximately 86 km and empties into the river Morača. The catchment area of upper Zeta is abundant in biodiversity, displaying a high degree of endemism with the presence of species like Montenegro riffle dace. Also, salmonid species such as Adriatic trout, marbled trout, and Salmo farioides Karaman, are found here. A review of the available literature for the Zeta River area lists a total of 28 species of fish that make up approximately 37% of the freshwater fish of Montenegro.

Focal speciesSalmo obtusirostris zetensis; Salmo marmoratus Cuvier, Salmo farioides Karaman
Project typeBarrier identification and prioritisation
Project statusLive

Project context and opportunity

Three dams were removed in 2021 in Montenegro, freeing the Vezisnica River and marking the first dam removal in the region. However, we are yet to discover how many barriers are obstructing Montenegrin rivers.

While Montenegro developed a relatively solid strategic and legal framework for water management, the implementation of policies is unsatisfactory, especially in terms of improving the ecological status of water bodies. One of the reasons for weak policy implementation is the lack of an inventory of barriers, allowing for a more concrete work on improving the status of rivers.

This project addresses the issue by developing a comprehensive inventory of barriers and their social impact for the catchment area of the upper Zeta River (size of the area: 1200 km2) in the Nikšić Municipality.

The upper part of Zeta River is impacted by numerous small barriers built during the 1960s, now approaching the end of their lifespan.

The inventory of barriers would allow for a structured, catchment-wide approach to barrier removal, improving the status of key species, and the health of the river system.

Project aims

The overall goal of the project is to improve ecological status of upper part of Zeta river catchment through dam removal.

The project will be implemented as a unified and coherent package of field research i.e. development of inventory of barriers and social impact study as well as demonstration of multi-sectorial dialogue (authorities on state and local level, local communities and other interested parties) and communication in support of dam removal in Montenegro. In that sense, following five outputs have been defined:

Output 1: Inventory of barriers

Output 2: Social impact study

Output 3: Prioritisation: List of barriers to be removed

Output 4: Knowledge sharing events with key stakeholders for scaling up;

Output 5: Raised awareness of local communities engaged with and through interactive discussions about positive impact of dam removal