Open Rivers Programme – Launches Today

Posted: 8th October 2021

Photo: Maxim Yakovlev

The Open Rivers Programme is officially launching today, 8th October 2021, thanks to a €42.5 million investment over six years from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.


European rivers are the most fragmented in the world, and this fragmentation 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 million barriers in European rivers, it is important 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 removal.
  3. The dam removal movement so that dam removal becomes more widely accepted and implemented in order to restore more rivers 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.

The programme is managed by Stichting European Open Rivers Programme, a charitable foundation, registered in the Netherlands.

A Programme Advisory Group supports the programme to ensure its strategy is aligned with other similar initiatives dedicated to river restoration in Europe. Members include:

  • Dam Removal Europe
  • European Centre for River Restoration
  • European Environment Agency
  • Global Water Partnership
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • Swansea University.

The Open Rivers Programme shares the Endangered Landscapes Programme’s vision for environmental restoration, and we look forward to seeing the positive impacts on landscapes across Europe that the Open Rivers Programme will surely bring.

You can find out more at the Open Rivers website, or by signing up for news updates.

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