77,310 people have called on the Slovenian government to abandon plans to erect eight hydropower dams across the country’s Mura River. The dam project could turn the free-flowing river into a series of lifeless reservoirs that threaten fish populations and other wildlife.

Campaigners will hand over a petition to the Slovenian government today – World Water Day.

They say that if the Slovenian government still pushes ahead with the dam project they will issue a formal complaint to the European Commission outlining how the plans violate both Slovenian and EU water and nature conservation protections.

The Mura river also provides invaluable services to local communities. Not only is it the most important source of drinking water, it also provides natural flood protection and is a valuable recreational area.

Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at WWF’s European Policy Office, said:

Unless we act now, our rivers and the crucial services they provide will continue to deteriorate. Back in 2000, EU Member States committed to protect and restore freshwater habitats in Europe through the adoption of the EU Water Framework Directive. Slovenia needs to live up to its legal commitments and scrap these destructive dams. Other countries should also focus on reviving the ambition set out in these visionary laws rather than on trying to side-step them.

Across Europe, rivers and other freshwater ecosystems are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Out of all the ecosystem types, freshwater ecosystems are continuing to experience the most significant deterioration, as research from the European Environment Agency recently revealed.

Findings from WWF show that the abundance of freshwater species worldwide has shrunk by 81% since the 1970s.

Agricultural pollution, over-abstraction of water, the construction of hydropower dams, flood defences and navigation all alter the natural state of rivers through physical modification, such as water pumping, channelising, dredging, and gravel and sand extraction, with disastrous consequences for the environment.

The EU’s water protection rules, set out in the Water Framework Directive which came into force 18 years ago, are currently undergoing a scheduled review.

Mark Owen of the European Anglers Alliance, said:

“Some Member States may see this review period as an opportunity to weaken the Directive’s high standards on freshwater protection, to the detriment of people and nature. The European Anglers Alliance, together with its partners from Living Rivers Europe, will be there every step of the way during this crucial review period to ensure that it is used to strengthen implementation of the Directive, rather than weaken its standards.”

Living Rivers Europe is a campaign ran by the European Anglers Alliance, the European Environmental Bureau, the European Rivers Network, Wetlands International and WWF. The group works to raise awareness about how more ambitious implementation of the EU’s Water Framework Directive is the only way to turn back the clock on the destruction of Europe’s waters.