If one thinks about the Balkans, vacation at the Mediterranean Sea or past wars come to mind – but certainly no stunning rivers. Indeed, Europe’s Blue Heart beats on the Balkan peninsula: this is where one can still find the wildest and most beautiful rivers of the continent. And hardly anyone knows about it.

Crystal clear streams, spectacular waterfalls, deep river canyons, alluvial forest, and huge wild rivers with vast gravel banks characterize this stunning network of rivers.

The Danube Salmon (Hucho hucho), a globally threatened fish species © Andreas Hartl

What’s more, these rivers are one of the most important hotspots for European freshwater biodiversity. Did you know that the Balkan rivers host 69 fish species that live only here and nowhere else in the world? Or did you know that over 40% of all endangered freshwater mussels and snails of Europe can be found in these freshwater systems?

However, this treasure is threatened: the Blue Heart is at risk of a heart attack.

About 2,700 hydropower plants are projected to be built in the next few years, leaving hardly any river untouched.

Not even the most striking and valuable river stretches and national parks are to be spared, like one of the oldest national parks in Europe: the Mavorvo National Park. Commonly with the help of European businesses and loans.

If these uncoordinated plans become reality, it would mean the end of Europe’s Blue Heart and the end of hundreds of species.

Yet, the rivers are still flowing freely.

In cooperation with local partners, the NGOs ‘EuroNatur’ and 'RiverWatch' have launched a “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign aiming to safe this European heritage from destruction. It will be a long, tough way, but it is worth every effort. Learn more about the campaign on this website.