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The Dam Truth All Dams Are Dirty

(And so is the hydropower they create)

Hydropower is the only “renewable” energy source sending species to extinction, displacing people globally, and contributing to climate change.

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Dams & Diversions

What’s the Difference?

Dams and river-draining diversions are both devastating to ecosystems and the people who live within them. In the Balkans, 91% of the more than 3,000 proposed dam projects involve small hydropower diversion dams, which divert water from rivers and even drain stretches of rivers dry. Studies have found that the cumulative impacts of multiple small diversions often outweigh those of a single large dam.

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Dams & Diversions

What’s the Difference?

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The Mratinje Dam on the Piva River in Montenegro

Dams

Dams block a river and impound water upstream in reservoirs.

The Mratinje Dam on the Piva River in Montenegro

Diversions

Diversions draw water from a river and send it to another location, often leaving the existing riverbed dry and local communities and habitats without water.

A hydropower project in the Balkans

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Dams Harm Ecosystems and Exacerbate Climate Change

Dams and diversions drastically change the environment and contribute to global climate change, negatively affecting waterways, natural habitats, surrounding landscapes and entire communities.

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Dams Harm Ecosystems and Exacerbate Climate Change

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The threatened Huchen, or Danube salmon

Kill Fish and Wildlife

Dams have contributed to an average freshwater wildlife population decline of 81% since 1970, with some species even sent to extinction.

Displace Communities

Dams have displaced at least 40-80 million people globally.

The Bënçë River valley in Albania and one of many undammed tributaries to the Vjosa River

Intensify Water Scarcity and Degrade Quality

By reducing flows, trapping heat in reservoirs, and causing toxic algae blooms, dams and diversions create poor water quality. Two thirds of the world’s population live in areas that need more water and dams and diversions intensify the problem; a United Nations report found that reservoirs worldwide evaporate more water than is used by humans.

A river in the Balkans already drained dry by hydropower development

Block Sediment Flow

Dams trap beneficial sediment, preventing its deposition on floodplains and deltas. This material is needed to sustain our most fertile agricultural lands, wetlands and beaches.

Contribute to Climate Change

Dams and diversions cause greenhouse gas emissions and make ecosystems and species less able to adapt to a changing climate.

Reservoir Emissions

Large dams and their reservoirs emit 104 million metric tons of methane annually—4% of the total warming impact of human activities.

The reservoir created by the Mratinje Dam on the Piva River in Montenegro

Warming Waters and Dry Riverbeds

Stagnant reservoirs and rivers facing reduced water levels from river-draining diversions heat up in the sun, often to temperatures that are deadly to cold-water-loving species. Some stretches of river are sucked dry, leaving local species without refuge and no escape from warming waters.

The reservoir created by the Mratinje Dam on the Piva River in Montenegro

Tree and Vegetation Loss

When a forest is cut down to make way for a dam and reservoir, those plants are no longer available to absorb carbon dioxide.

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Clean, Green Hydropower Dams Are a Myth

Dams have a massive negative impact on species, wildlife habitats and human communities and hydropower dams contribute to this destruction. In the Balkans and globally, is it worth the energy gained to destroy these last wild rivers, given all the accompanying impact on people and wildlife?

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Clean, Green Hydropower Dams Are a Myth

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Massive Investment

Dams projects often see planning challenges, cost overruns of up to 96%, and are prone to corruption. Whereas wind and solar projects can be built more quickly, with average cost overruns of less than 10%.

The unfinished Kalivaç Dam on the Vjosa River near the city of Tepelena, Albania

Other Renewable Energy Sources Create More Jobs

Globally, renewable wind and solar create four to five times as many jobs as small scale hydropower.

More efficient and less destructive options exist, like solar and wind

High Impact, Little Production

Many diversion dams, including 91% of hydropower projects in the Balkans, produce little energy and have major impacts.

A diversion in the Balkans

Hydropower Propaganda

Many banks and countries are selling these projects as clean energy. Can we consider an energy source that is sending species to extinction and damaging ecosystems, contributing to climate change and displacing millions of people globally, clean, green and “renewable”?

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We Need Healthy Rivers

Healthy, free-flowing rivers provide immense value to humans and wildlife–they feed us, provide drinking water, increase resilience to climate change and support vibrant communities.

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We Need Healthy Rivers

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The Una River in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Valuable Fresh Water

Accessible freshwater constitutes less than 1% of the world’s total water supply and needs protection to help sustain human life. Rivers are the freshwater equivalent of a wilderness area—both rare and necessary.

Nelina Ammic drinks from the Kruščica River

Carbon Sink

Rivers transport about 200 million tons of carbon to the ocean every year, effectively taking it out of the atmosphere. Unflooded plant communities adjacent to these rivers remove much more.

A healthy Balkan river

Mitigate Floods and Droughts

Healthy rivers and their floodplains absorb rainfall and recharge aquifers, protecting us against floods and droughts that will worsen with climate change.

The mighty Vjosa River in Albania—the largest of the last wild rivers in Europe

Support Forests

Water availability has a direct impact on the health of forests, which keep river banks from eroding and provide shade to cool the flows.

Rivers impact the health of surrounding forests

Rivers Feed Us

Freshwater fisheries alone currently sustain up to 550 million people on a fish-based diet. Many other aquatic and terrestrial food sources depend on river health.

Fish feed us

Healthy rivers provide healthy groundwater supplies

Recharge Groundwater Supplies

Sediment-trapping dams lead to “hungry rivers” and channel deepening for tens or even hundreds of kilometers below a reservoir, which can lower the groundwater table along a river, making it difficult or impossible for trees to reach this water source.

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Save the Blue Heart of Europe

Tell International Banks to Stop Investing in the Destruction of Europe’s Last Wild Rivers

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01

The Dam Truth

Dams are Dirty and so is the hydropower they create.

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02

Discover the Blue Heart

The Balkan region has preserved the last wild rivers on the European continent.

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03

Save the Blue Heart

Tell International Banks to Stop Investing in the Destruction of Europe’s Last Wild Rivers.

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