Identifying barriers in five catchments in Southern Carpathians, Romania

Conducting a comprehensive investigation of the catchment areas within the South Western Carpathians to map, and record the ownership, condition, and importance of both registered and unregistered barriers to prioritise them for removal.

Introduction

This project targets five catchments in the Southern Carpathians, a large-scale wilderness landscape that hosts diverse habitats.  

The Bistra, Sebes, Fenes, and Paraul Rece rivers are tributaries to the Timiș River, which spans approximately 250 km, winding Romania and Serbia and converging with the Danube. These four tributaries are considered the river’s origin points at the highest elevations within the Timiș catchment.  

A tributary of the Cerna, the Belareca River, feeds into the Danube, facilitated by a 10-km stretch of the Cerna River, providing ample spawning grounds for various fish species.  

The proposed area is an important hotspot for biodiversity. It supports populations of many fish species, such as salmonids, bullhead and lamprey; invertebrate species, such as crayfish; and semi-aquatic mammals, like otters, water shrews and water voles, all of which would benefit from having healthier river habitats. 

At a glance

Project typeDam removal: pre-demolition
Project statusLive
CountryRomania
RiversBelareca, Paraul Rece, Fenes, Sebes, and Bistra
Potential km to be openedApproximately 50
Focal speciesSalmo trutta, Eudontomyzon sp., Romonogobio uranoscopus, Cottus gobio, Thymallus thymallus, Sabanejewia balcanica, Barbus sp and Lutra lutra

Project context and opportunity

There’s a lack of publicly available information on river barriers in Romania, especially in the South Western Carpathians. Many barriers in this region were built by various authorities over time, leading to degradation and lost records. Consequently, most small barriers are undocumented, hindering effective action. A comprehensive field inventory is necessary to address this, covering ownership, physical characteristics, current state, and ecological impact of registered and unregistered barriers. 

Understanding local communities’ perceptions of dam removal is crucial to evaluate the feasibility of future removals and prioritize awareness-raising efforts accordingly.

This project aims to build capacity for barrier removal, enhance longitudinal river connectivity, and restore ecological processes. This, in turn, will improve the migration patterns of crucial organisms, enhance breeding habitats, and augment biodiversity within rivers and riparian zones, aligning with Rewilding Romania’s strategy for wilder nature in the Southern Carpathians, known for their diverse wildlife. 

Project aims

To achieve the project objectives, comprehensive field surveys will be conducted in the proposed catchments to identify and map all barriers. This includes assessing their type, purpose, building materials, measurements, and current condition and conducting a preliminary evaluation of their ecological, hydrological, and geomorphological impact. Ownership of the barriers and affected properties will be determined through meetings with local authorities and other relevant stakeholders. The outcome of these activities will be a prioritised list of high-potential dams based on the aforementioned criteria, and efforts will be made to obtain consent for their removal from the owners of the top-ranked barriers. At least 40 barriers will be prioritised.  

Interviews with key stakeholders will be conducted to evaluate the potential for barrier removal and develop an awareness-raising strategy. Utilising this strategy, public meetings will be organised locally to engage stakeholders and raise awareness of the benefits of barrier removal. Additionally, other organizations involved in dam removals will be invited to contribute insights during these meetings. 

Furthermore, a guide outlining the steps and procedures for dam removal in Romania, including estimated timeframes, will be developed. This will involve researching legislation, consulting technical experts, and collaborating with organisations experienced in dam removal. 

Partners