The Open Rivers Programme has been launched, thanks to a €42.5 million grant over six years from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.
The mission of the Open Rivers Programme is to restore endangered European rivers by supporting interventions that lead to the removal of dams and the restoration of river flow and biodiversity. Its vision is for free-flowing rivers with healthy, diverse and connected ecosystems across Europe, which are enjoyed, valued, and protected by the communities that depend on them. The programme is managed by Stichting European Open Rivers Programme, a charitable foundation, registered in the Netherlands.


European rivers are the most fragmented in the world which has led to the loss of many species and habitats. One of the biggest causes of river fragmentation is the presence of man-made barriers to river flow. Dam removal is a relatively cost effective and quick solution to restoring river continuity. This in turn can improve water quality, restore the diversity and abundance of life in rivers and their surrounding habitats and increase habitat connectivity and resilience.


With over one a million barriers in European rivers, there is a need to prioritise those that are are removed. The programme’s focus will be to support organisations and communities working to restore rivers by funding dam removal projects that have the greatest possible impact on restoring river ecosystems.
The Open Rivers Programme will offer grants to support:
  1. The removal of small dams (up to 2 metres in height) in rivers.
  2. Preparatory work that will result in a dam
  3. The dam removal movement in Europe, so that dam removal becomes more. widely accepted and implemented in order to restore more river across Europe.
The programme will offer its first grants in February 2022 by supporting a selection of “ready to go” dam removal projects that have been identified during its preparatory phase. It will also release a new call for Expressions of Interest on 12th November 2021, with projects due to start from May 2022. A full launch of the programme and press release will take place in spring 2022 around the time of the first grant awards.
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