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Exploring Grassroots Responses in the Balkans to Hydropower Threats

Bennett Barthelemy | The Balkans

Denis Cizar, a river activist, raft guide and photo journalist on the river he is most passionate about and that he and his wife draw their livelihoods from, the Mura. The Mura is called the Amazon of Europe and is currently threatened with several large dam projects that will compromise the burgeoning wine growing industry by raising temps in the microclimate and will also destroy opportunities for rafting.

The countries in the Balkan Peninsula are currently facing some 3,000 hydropower projects. Some are already under way despite intense protests from local communities that are effected and stand to lose drinking water and livelihoods that they have realized because of the uncompromised natural environments. Some of these hydropower projects violate EU law as they are in National Parks or extremely significant areas. This region of Europe is unique in terms of its biodiversity and and because so many of its rivers are still in their natural states. These hydropoer projects are often internationally funded, negatively impacting locals and local economies and that money for financing flows to corrupt politicians - and the generated power, which is very little, goes out of the country.

In October of 2017 I floated rivers in kayaks and rafts and cut brush to help fish habitats - I met with NGOs and river activists and explored 6 countries in this region that is little-known to much of Europe and the West. I crossed country borders 17 times and without fail was met with incredible hospitality from the locals.The sense of community and knowledge sharing between one that had suffered or were about to suffer at the hand of hydropower interests was quite powerful. I will be returning in June/July of 2018.


Balkan Rivers Defence


Bank Watch

River Watch 

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