Urgent action needed for Lithuanian rivers

A proposal to amend the Lithuanian Water Act and Law of Protected areas threatens two of the last rivers in Europe with open fish migratory pathways, Nemunas and Neris, home to populations of wild salmon, trout and sturgeon as well as the endangered European eel.

In 2004, the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) adopted an amendment to the Water Act to make dam construction on Nemunas and other rivers that are valuable in terms of environment and culture, forbidden. In this way Lithuania assured the successful implementation of its international obligations regarding the conservation of migratory species. However, there are now proposals to amend the Water Act and the Law on Protected Areas to make possible the construction of a five dams on Nemunas River below Kaunas and a cascade of three dams in Neris River, all foreseen to include hydropower plants and facilitate new possibilities for transports. Despite having diminutive capacity on national scale, and having more environmentally friendly alternatives (same quantity of electricity could be produced by a wind farm with 30 turbines), this proposal has significant lucrative potential, providing its owner with up to 20 M Euro per annum of incomes. However, this proposal would have massive negative effects on the environment. The suggested cascade of 5 dams would flood large areas of habitats of unique flora and fauna, block one of few remaining European migratory fish paths in Nemunas and Neris rivers as well as their tributaries. It would void the works from the last 10 years to restore habitat of salmon, trout and sturgeon stocks and would also block an important habitat and migratory way for the endangered European eel. In an open letter to the President and the Prime Minister of Lithuania, the speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament and the Minister of Environment, CCB now urges the Lithuanian government and parliament to not support the proposed amendments to the Water Act and Law on Protected Areas.