Three barriers, Upper Tisza catchment, Ukraine

Removing three dams in the Upper Tisza catchment to restore the free-flowing mountain rivers of Bilyi, Kvasnyi, and Bohdan.


The Tisza is one of the main tributaries of the Danube River and crosses four country boundaries. The Tisza headwaters are critical for millions of EU/non-EU countries and thousands of Ukrainian citizens for drinking and agriculture. It is home to many of the UNESCO Heritage Virgin Beech forest clusters, biosphere reserves, national parks, Natura 2000 sites, Emerald sites, and a wide variety of critical wildlife from several European countries. The river is essential for drought areas of the Hungarian lowlands, especially during summer hits. Climate change caused the high water table on rivers to shift to winter/late autumn precipitation. The summer got much drier, and winter/late autumn got much wetter. That stimulates the flash floods, causing extensive damage. The high water table on rivers with dams forces the water flow into neighbouring areas, roads, and bridges, causing destruction and erosion. 

At a glance

Project typeDam removal: demolition
Project statusLive
RiverTisza catchment
Km to be openedIn total 140 km (Bilyi River network for a fish move need consists of ca. 63 km; the Bohdan River network consists of 45 km, and the Kvasnyi River - 32 km)
Focal speciesSalmo trutta m. fario, Thymallus thymallus, Gobio gobio, Telestes souffia agassizi , Phoxinus phoxinus, Barbatula barbatula, Sabanejewia aurata, Cottus gobio, Eudontomyzon danfordi
Removal dateSummer/autumn 2024 and spring 2025

Project context and opportunity

Often, dams provide substantial economic benefits to society, including hydropower, irrigation, navigation, flood control, domestic and industrial water supply, and recreation for many areas. But these benefits often come at a price, including environmental and recreational impacts and dam maintenance and repair costs. Our identified three dams do not even provide any of these benefits. For a maximum of 80 years ago, they played an essential role in transporting wood with water downstream. Since it was not used anymore, it lost any functional need. Furthermore, it eroded neighbouring habitats and destroyed roads and bridges, stimulating the building of new protection dams. Protecting road safety is essential as dams can broadly support flash floods and destroy infrastructure. The obvious economic benefits of dam removal include eliminating flood hazards and supporting additional amenities. Comparing the long- and short-term costs is critical to determine these dam removals’ economic costs and benefits.  

Project aims

The detailed project goals are

  1. Development of Preliminary Design for dam removal, which includes collecting of all available data (including archives), developing preliminary design plans for removal of dam structures, sediment management and riparian habitats restoration;
  2. Discussion of the Preliminary Design of the dam removal during the CBR Scientific-Research Council meeting and Development of the Final version; presentation of the Preliminary Design of the removals and habitats restoration; development of Final Design of the Dam removal and habitats restoration (sediment management, infrastructure protection, channel restoration, and other issues identified during the preliminary design phase);
  3. Field Dam Removal and Restoration of the riparian zone, which consists of hiringcontractor by procurement and removing the dam structures; hiringcontractor by procurement and arranging the restoration measures; organise volunteer training on restoration;
  4. Communication (presenting work to the public) on dam removal, which includes organising the press tour for journalists and ecologists for removed dams; preparation of a short video film on the removal of the dam; preparation of project results on social networks (Facebook, webpage, etc.); development of a Toolkit on dam removal with guidelines (in Ukrainian);
  5. Post-project monitoring consists of an evaluation of the dam removal and restoration measures.