Dinaric Arc Sustainable Hydropower Initiative: a WWF project focused on strategic planning in the Western Balkans

The DASHI project (Dinaric Arc Sustainable Hydropower Initiative) was launched in 2011 by WWF Mediterranean Programme Office (MedPO) in order to reduce adverse impacts of hydropower development in the Western Balkans and to promote good practices in the region. The project is focused on the protection of the most precious freshwater ecosystems in the countries of the Dinaric Arc (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro) in particular the Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites).

Skadar Lake © Andrija Vrdoljak WWF-Canon

In this framework WWF developed, in partnership with national institutes for nature protection, an analysis of the status of rivers in the region that led to the publication “Rivers: Lifelines of the Dinaric Arc” as a tool for influencing decision makers to develop strategic planning approach for hydropower projects.

296 rivers were analysed for a total length of about 13,278 km and a total basin surface of around 165,000 km². The analysis took into consideration the condition of rivers (hydrology, morphology, riparian vegetation, water quality and land use) and their biological condition using the distribution of freshwater fish species and the existence of Protected Areas.

One of the results of the analysis was a map highlighting the most outstanding rivers that would help protect the most important rivers and associated key freshwater habitats and species in the Western Balkans from hydropower development. WWF is now presenting the national maps and analysis to national institutions and public throughout the region. Launch of the report was already organised in Croatia, the launch in Bosnia and Herzegovina will happen next week, while in Montenegro WWF plans to launch the national report the following months.

The Neretva River delta, Croatia © Andrija Vrdoljak WWF-Canon

The DASHI project builds on the results of the project “Sharing Waters”, which started in 2006 and focused on protection of three sites, the Neretva River and Hutovo Blato Ramsar site in BiH, Livanjsko polje Ramsar site in BiH and Skadar lake Ramsar site in Montenegro and Albania. The principal goal of this project was to lower the impacts of basin wide threats on the three sites. One of the main conclusions was that hydropower was one of the biggest threat which led to the development of the DASHI project.

Through the DASHI project, WWF started an intensive dialogue with governments, the hydropower development companies, the main financiers and investors in the countries of the Dinaric Arc focusing on three Ramsar Sites: Hutovo Blato and Livanjsko Polje (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Skadar Lake (Albania and Montenegro).

Petra Remeta, Freshwater and Energy Policy Officer in WWF:
“The outcome of the analysis is the discovery that the level of integrity of the Western Balkans river network is very high with many of the rivers still in very good condition. The total length of outstanding river reaches is in fact 8,739 km, accounting for 66 % of the total river length analysed. It indicates that rivers and wetlands of the region are already under severe pressure from hydropower and other water users. With plans for development of hundreds of new hydropower plants we are jeopardizing the remaining intact rivers and wetlands. The analysis gives us the first glimpse at which rivers we should focus on when prioritizing protection activities and nominating exclusion zones for hydropower.”

Livanjsko polje © Andrija Vrdoljak

Nature Park Hutovo Blato and Delta Neretva, one of the last remaining Adriatic deltas, have also seen some heavy modifications in the past due to hydropower development, but parts of them are still in pristine condition, providing safe haven for several endemic fish and bird species. These wetlands should be protected from further impacts of hydropower development through sustainable management practices, and WWF is working closely with B&H institutions to ensure their protection through innovative financing schemes, biodiversity research, training of staff, and development of sustainable tourism activities.

The Nature Park Hutovo Blato and the National Park Skadar Lake, both Wetlands of International Importance, are also members of the newly established Parks Dinarides Association, which will provide a common voice for protected areas in the Dinaric Arc, engaging with decision makers, and developing best solutions in terms of governance, management and financing for protected areas.

Hutuvo Blato © Edward PARKER WWF – Canon

  • For more information

Read “Rivers: Lifelines of the Dinaric Arc”
See the website (in English)

  • Contact

Bojan Stojanovic
WWF MedPO, Communications Officer