Kayakers take a clear stance against dams in the Balkans starting a unique protest tour

Kayakers from all over Europe started a protest against the construction of 2,700 dams in the Balkans: they will paddle the most stunning and most threatened Balkan rivers over the next 35 days.

A unique caravan of kayakers departed from Bohinji Lake, Slovenia, on 16 April. The group – made of over 60 activists – aims to paddle 18 rivers over the next 35 days, in order to protest against the construction of thousands of dams in the Balkans.

 

Avvio della protesta contro le dighe sui fiumi balcanici
© Matic Oblak

 

The demonstration is part of the international campaign Save the Blue Heart of Europe, aimed to protect Balkan rivers and raise public awareness on the risks linked to the construction of 2,700 new dams between Slovenia and Albania.

 

The group of paddlers, led by former Slovenian Olympic athlete Rok Rozman, will cross Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania, under the slogan “Save our rivers”. Numerous events are organised along the shores, in order to support their fight against dams.

 

“This unique activity shows that the Balkan Rivers are more than just suppliers of megawatt hours,” said Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign. They are lifelines that provide recreational value to people and habitat for species. We need to defend this European natural heritage against the greed of companies and banks for profit”.

 

Rok Rozman
Rok Rozman, former Slovenian Olympic athlete who promoted the protest tour

 

All rivers ot be travelled by the activists are threatened by the construction – over the next few years – of dams in 113 national parks, with severe consequences on rivers, the environment and biodiversity.

 

“When I was a kid my dream was to win Olympic medal in rowing rivers,” told Rok Rozman. “As a grown-up, my foremost goal is to protect these rivers. I didn’t get the medal but I will do everything I can to help saving the rivers on the Balkans”.

 

One of the rivers threatened by the hydroelectric projects is the Sana River, a watercourse that crosses Bosnia-Herzegovina and home to one of Europe’s rarest fish, the Danube salmon (Hucho hucho).

 

Attivisti a bordo dei kayak
© Jan Pirnat

 

The protest tour will end on 20 May in Albania, with the handing over of a petition for the protection of the Vjosa River – considered to be Europe’s last wild river – to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Translated by

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