Albanian Municipality DARE (Dam Removal)

Identifying outdated and environmentally harmful dams in Albania to decommission, fostering discussions and knowledge exchange to restore river flow and biodiversity.


Albania has an extensive hydrographic network and ample water reserves, in part due to the construction of 652 dams since the 1950s. This positions the country as the 19th highest worldwide regarding the overall count of large dams. Notably, Albania holds the first rank in Europe for the density of large dams per square kilometre and large dams per one million inhabitants.

Among these dams, 626 are dedicated to single-purpose irrigation. However, a considerable number of these structures have become outdated or lost their original functionality over time. This is primarily due to a lack of regular maintenance and monitoring. Furthermore, the smaller irrigation dams have been erected along minor streams and tributaries connected to the main rivers. Unfortunately, this has resulted in notable negative effects on the environment and biodiversity.

At a glance

RiversDrin, Vjosa, Buna/Bojana, Mat, Erzen, Shkumbin, Ishmi, Semani, Bistrica
Focal speciesEuropean eel, aquatic insect species, rana graeca, Triturus vulgaris, western Balkan barabel
Project typeBarrier identification and prioritisation
Project statusLive

Project context and opportunity

With the passage of time and changing needs, many of these dams have become obsolete and unsafe and are no longer serving their initial purpose effectively. These ageing dams may have experienced deterioration, sedimentation, or insufficient capacity to meet water supply and irrigation demands. The National Strategy for Irrigation, Drainage, and Flood Protection 2019-2031 highlights the need for intervention and dam removal for single-purpose irrigation dams that have lost function due to siltation or urbanization.

Outdated and unsafe dams pose several challenges and risks to the communities and environment in the affected regions. It’s time for Albania to become politically serious about dam removal and take action. The first step to achieving this objective is to commence thorough discussions at the local level, specifically focusing on municipalities and environmental NGOs.

Project aims

The project will make the first list of barriers to be removed in Albania, identifying six dams that should be decommissioned and eight with decommissioning potential. DARE will then facilitate the development and exchange of knowledge on dam removal between partners at different levels (local authorities, government, NGOs, etc.) by creating the first roundtable discussion on removing small dams to restore river flow and biodiversity.