Construction site in Valbona National Park, Albania. Photo: Mirjan Aliaj
Construction site at the Sana river, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Austrian/German company KELAG is building the dam and puts the Huchen, a globally threatened fish species at risk. Photo: Matic Oblak

New report: Hydropower Tsunami in the Balkans

Read about this also in The Guardian article Balkan hydropower projects soar by 300% putting wildlife at risk, research shows


++ Dam tsunami in the Balkans is speeding up ++ 2,800 hydropower projects planned, 187 under construction ++ more than 1,000 of them inside protected areas ++

Vienna, Radolfzell, 28.11.2017. A new data set makes the extent of the threat to the Blue Heart of Europe visible: the dam tsunami has started to roll. Currently, about 2,800 hydropower plants are being planned between Slovenia and Greece, 187 are under construction, more than 1,000 (or 37%) are located inside protected areas (118 of which in national parks, 547 in Natura 2000 areas, the rest inside high level national categories). Since 2015, about 160 to 180 hydropower plants have been constructed in that region. Within the campaign „Save the Blue Heart of Europe” we regularly assess the hydropower development on the Balkans. Since the last update in 2015, the speed of river destruction has increased. The assessment was prepared by Fluvius.

“These numbers visualize the dimension of the problem. This dam tsunami is threatening Europe´s Blue Heart. Without respect to nature, endangered species, protected areas and people, rivers are being destroyed, their water diverted and whole landscapes are drying up,” says Ulrich Eichelmann, CEO of Riverwatch.

Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur adds: “The main drivers for this wave of hydropower development are corruption, the superficiality of many international financial institutions and misconceived climate protection. This has to be stopped, otherwise the Blue Heart of Europe will have a heart attack.”



Currently, 2,796 hydropower plants are in the planning phase, 188 are under construction, while another 1,004 plants are already operating. 1,031 (or 37%) of the planned dams are projected to be built in protected areas with high protection status (118 of which in national parks, 547 in Natura 2000 areas).


Comparing the latest update with our 2015 data shows that

  • the speed of construction of new hydropower plants is increasing. Currently, 188 projects are under construction, while in 2015 it was only 61
  • hotspots of ongoing river destruction is Albania (81 projects under construction), Serbia (30), Macedonia (22) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (19). Less projects are currently being pushed in Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro
  • in the past 2 years, approximately 160-180 plants have been completed
  • 91% of those under construction are projects with a planned installed capacity below 10 megawatts (MW) for which no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required.
  • practically all bigger plants under construction are being built in Albania: 10 out of 13 projects with capacities between 10-50 MW, and 2 out of 3 with capacities above 50 MW
  • next to Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, a future hotpots of dam construction will be Serbia in particular, where a total of 826 plants are projected.
Figure 1. Hydropower plants by countries

Protected Areas

  • Protected areas do not provide protection against hydropower plants; their protection status is being severely undermined. A total of 1,447 hydropower plants and projects are located within protected areas with high protection status (national parks, Natura 2000, national protected areas), of which
    • 1,031 are in the planning phase. In 2015, “only” 535 projects were planned in protected areas, so the number has doubled since
    • 51 are under construction
    • 365 are in operation
  • National parks: 118 projects are planned within national parks (2015: 113), 21 are under construction (!), 52 are in operation.
  • Natura 2000: 547 projects are planned within Natura 2000 areas (2015: 131), 7 are under construction, 248 are in operation. Natura 2000 is a network of EU protected areas, thus only the EU member states Slovenia, Croatia, Greece and Bulgaria have been taken into account. The significant increase of projects within this category is linked to improved data for Bulgaria compared to the 2015 data set.
Figure 2. Hydropower plants in protected areas


The data update was conducted by the consultant FLUVIUS Floodplain Ecology and River Basin Management by means of intensive satellite imagery research, as well as data from national and international sources, company and bank websites, news articles, etc. With respect to power plants in protected areas it must be noted that only data on hydropower plants has been updated in the course of this analysis, and not that of protected areas. New protected areas which have been designated since 2015 are thus not included in this analysis. This means that the actual number of hydropower plants within protected areas is likely to be even higher.



2017 Data Set Summary
Collection of graphs

Graphs by country:

Albania Bosnia & Herzegovina Macedonia Serbia
Kosovo Bulgaria Slovenia Croatia
Montenegro Greece Turkey  



Ulrich Eichelmann - Riverwatch - - 0043 676 6621512
Anja Arning - EuroNatur - - 0049 7732 927213