The first dam removal in Kosovo begins with Mirusha Dam

Creating a path for the first dam removal in Kosovo and catalysing Kosovo's dam removal movement.

Introduction

The Mirusha River Basin is located in central Kosovo, on the eastern side of the Dukagjini Plain. It is the left branch of the “Drini i Bardhe” (White Drin) River, which is Kosovo’s largest River Basin, covering 4,360 km2 or 40% of Kosovo’s area. The Mirusha River Basin covers a catchment area of 337 km2, ranging in altitude from 329 m to 1055 m. The Mirusha River is 37 km long and passes through a gorge known as the Mirusha River Canyon. It creates 12 waterfalls and 16 lakes that present a rare morpho-hydrological phenomenon.

The Mirusha waterfalls are part of a park of significant natural, scientific, cultural, and touristic importance. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the area belongs to the “Protected Landscape” category, and the course of the Mirusha River belongs to the “Natural Monument” category. Within this part of the river lies the MIrusha Dam.

The waterfalls of Mirusha are unique in their natural, national, and cultural heritage values. Therefore, protecting this area from external influences and using it sustainably is vital, including developing sustainable tourism to benefit the local community and the region.

At a glance

CountryKosovo
RiverMirusha
Km to be opened37
Focal speciesSalmo trutta, Anguilla anguilla, Squailius cephalus, aquatic insect species
Project typeDam removal (pre-demolition)
Project statusLive

Project context and opportunity

The Mirusha Dam was illegally constructed between 2011 and 2013 in the village of Mirusha, Municipality of Malisheva. The rationale behind the construction and ownership of the dam remains unclear. Local communities report that the dam was initially built for hydropower production, and official sources suggest that the Municipality of Malisheva constructed it. The Institute for Nature Protection reported against the project in 2008-2009.  The dam is approximately 8 to 10 meters high, with an impoundment covering an area of about 8 hectares. Although the reservoir is currently used for recreational fishing, the water quality is poor due to the absence of sewage water treatment in the towns and villages located upstream.

The dam is located about 16.5 km downstream of the main spring of the Mirusha River. In the upstream area, some minor weirs have been identified in urban areas where the river is channelized but have not been investigated yet.

The Mirusha Dam is located approximately 13 km upstream of the Mirusha Waterfalls Nature Monument entrance and about 20.5 km from the confluence with the White Drin River. No major dams or man-made barriers on the bed of the Mirusha River have been identified downstream of the dam.

During the summer of 2020, severe droughts severely impacted the Mirusha waterfalls. Local NGOs and media highlighted potential causes for the lack of water. Several site visits were conducted between August and October 2020 to identify the pressures impacting Mirusha’s freshwater ecosystems. The primary environmental pressures related to human activities include wastewater management, drinking water supply, irrigation, and illegal dam construction.

Project aims

Removing the outdated and unsafe Mirusha Dam would not only open up 37km of the river but also serve as a milestone for dam removals in Kosovo, as it would be the country’s first dam removal. The successful demolition of the dam would inspire efforts to remove other barriers on the river and obsolete structures on rivers across the country.

During the preparatory phase, we will prioritize developing strong relationships with partners, stakeholders, and local communities to ensure their complete support during demolition. The project will bring together experts and stakeholders who don’t usually work closely, fostering cooperation for future dam removal projects.

We will also communicate and disseminate information about the project’s success to the local and national community, NGOs, and media. This project will not only work on enabling conditions at the national level but also serve as an opportunity to elevate information on the impacts of river fragmentation and the benefits of dam removal to encourage more countries to join barrier removal efforts.

The potential for replication in other countries in the Western Balkans makes this project even more critical. The Mirusha dam’s removal will create a path for the first dam removal in Kosovo and catalyze Kosovo’s dam removal movement.

Partners