Matabosch dam removal, Spain July 2021 © Agencia Catalana del agua ACA

At least 239 barriers were removed from rivers in 2021 by practitioners from 17 European countries, making it a record-breaking year for dam removal on the continent, a new report says.

The Dam Removal Europe Annual report 2021 says that there was an increase of 137% of barriers removed compared to the previous year. Of the 239 dams removed, 76% of the barriers were low-head dams and weirs, but 24% of the total were higher than 2 meters.  

Spain was highlighted as the leading country with 108 structures removed from its rivers, including the tallest dam taken out in 2021 (13 meters high). Portugal, Montenegro, and Slovakia recorded their first ever removal and in Finland a functioning hydropower dam has been dismantled. 

Restoring at least 25000 km of rivers to a free-flowing state is flagged as one of the key elements of the European Union Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which is part of the European Green Deal. 

The outcomes of this annual report will be presented at the 7th Dam Removal Europe seminar “Connected Rivers” in Lisbon (May 19-21) which happens in conjunction with the world-wide celebrations of World Fish Migration Day. 

Map of European countries that removed barriers in 2021. Color gradient refers to the number of removal cases.