Reconnecting rivers in North Macedonia: Identifying priority barriers for removal

Developing the methodology and knowledge to further develop strategies for reconnecting rivers and their restoration on a national level.


The Pcinja River is the second largest tributary of the Vardar River in North Macedonia. It flows for 76 km through the Kumanovska valley, and Bislimska and Badarska gorges. The Pcinja River has several large tributaries, such as the Kumanovska and Kriva rivers, and several smaller tributaries, such as the Dragomanska, Petroshnica and Luka rivers. Тhe Pcinja river catchment stretches across Emerald, IBA, IPA and nationally protected areas and is important in maintaining habitat balance.

At a glance

Project typeBarrier identification and prioritisation
Project statusComplete
CountryNorth Macedonia
Key speciesBarbus macedonicus, the Macedonian Barble, Salmo macedonicus, the Macedonian trout, Pachychilon macedonicum, Macedonian moranec

Project context and opportunity

North Macedonia’s rivers are abundant in biodiversity – over 70% of fish species are endemic. At the same time, rivers are often not properly protected. In the past decades, more than 90 small hydropower plants have been built on pristine rivers, one-third of them in protected areas. Many more have been blocked or regulated in the past by inappropriate flood prevention systems or for fishing purposes.

Pcinja River, as an example, can serve to change this practice, protect rivers, and work on their restoration. The preliminary research shows that the river catchment is highly fragmented, with over 40 river barriers that alter the transport of sediments and the movement of fish and aquatic organisms. The negative impact is also reflected in habitat degradation, species abundance and distribution, and ecosystem health.

The project will provide the methodology and knowledge to develop further strategies for reconnecting rivers and their restoration on a national level.

Project aims

The project goal is to develop a nationally applicable methodology and database for identifying priority barriers for removal by using the Pcinja River catchment as a case study.

The aim of the preparatory work conducted through the project is to:

  • Identify all the existing barriers in the river catchment and make a complete inventory (location, height, width, photos).
  • Perform a strategic identification of all the obsolete barriers, including assessing their environmental and social impacts.
  • Identify the legal status of barriers in collaboration with ministries, relevant state institutions, and municipal authorities.
  • Prepare a database containing all the collected information from the previous inventory, assessment and legal analysis that will enable systematic identification of priority locations.
  • Produce a list of barriers that should be removed, and the optimal order for their removal, designed in such a manner as to enable the greatest effect in reestablishing natural processes of the river catchment, restoration of the longitudinal river connectivity, and restoration of biodiversity in the area.
  • Prepare a report explaining the methodology used, the results of the work, recommendations for priority barriers for removal, and a plan for removal of the priority barriers.


After the completion of the project, the project team are removing two barriers through a programme-supported grant.



Geobalcanica North Macedonia