France is an important destination for kayakers: from the steep runs in Jura, over the Haute Alps with the wonderful Durance valley, to the creeks in the Pyrenees and with endless beautiful scenery for river touring. Unfortunately, this majestic natural heritage is threatened by hydropower developments – and the amount of planned hydropower plants is massively overproportinal in comparison to the rest of Europe.
In a 2019 report by RiverWatch, FLUVIUS, WWF, EuroNatur and GEOTA, it becomes evident that France has a substantial presence of hydropower already: with 1250 existing hydropower plants, France ranks fourth in Europe in terms number of active plants. But what’s more concerning is the number of planned installations: with 1412 projects, France ranks second and accounts for around 15% of all the planned hydropower plants in Europe.
With the realization of all these planned hydropower developments France will still only generate 9% of the hydropower output in Europe – which shows the another problem highlighted by the report: the biggest part of the planned projects is in the range of 0,1 – <10 MW output. These small-scale hydropower plants usually combine the least favourable sides of hydropower: substantial ecological damage with minimal power output. In addition, they are usually constructed at steep mountain rivers and represent a threat to especially sensitive ecosystems.
Looking at the high density of planned hydropower projects, combined with the high percentage of small scale hydropower – the free flowing rivers of France are sacrificed for minimal electricity production.
Therefore the Free Rivers Fund wants to take action! The Free Rivers Fund finances grassroots initiatives and projects that work towards free flowing rivers – and it looks like the French rivers could use some help. To better be able to reach the French kayaking and river conservation community our homepage is now available also in French. So if you are an activist and need support, if you know a river threatened by hydropower development and want to do something about it or if you are interested to support the France chapter of the FRF – do not hesitate to contact us!