Photo Credit: Patagonia

Outdoor marketing agencies Groundswell PR and Blue Ion Outpost have partnered with Friends of the Reedy River, a Greenville-based environmental nonprofit, to host a screening of the documentary “Blue Heart: The Fight for Europe’s Last Wild River.”

Produced by media company Farm League and outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, the 43-minute film chronicles the grassroots campaign to protect the rivers of the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe.

The Balkan Peninsula, which includes 20,000 pristine, free-flowing kilometers of rivers between Slovenia and Albania, has become a target for foreign developers and banks that plan to build 3,000 new hydroelectric dams and diversions throughout the region.

Around 91 percent of the planned projects are small hydropower diversion dams, according to Patagonia. These types of projects divert water and can leave portions of rivers completely dry.

Environmental advocates and researchers alike argue that blocking or diverting the paths of the Balkan rivers could impact their water quality, block the movement of nutrients and sediment, and destroy fish and wildlife habitats.

Albania’s Vjosa River – one of Europe’s last undammed rivers – is one of the many waterways threatened by planned hydroelectric dams and diversions in the Balkan Peninsula. Photo Credit: Andrew Burr/Patagonia.

A 2017 report commissioned by Riverwatch and EuroNatur, two environmental campaign organizations, found that up to a tenth of Europe’s fish species could be wiped out or decimated by planned hydroelectric dams and diversions throughout the region.

The report, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Graz in Austria, says the dams and diversions threaten 49 of Europe’s 531 freshwater fish species with the loss of 50 to 100 percent of their Balkan distribution, with 11 Balkan endemic species at particular risk.

“I believe this wild place requires and deserves protection,” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard said in a news release. “It’s a waste of money and a moral travesty that some of the world’s largest financial institutions have embraced this outdated and exploitative technology and are financing new dams in some of the last wild places in Europe. This is a fight too important to ignore.”

Patagonia is working with local communities and nongovernmental organizations in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, and Macedonia to put pressure on foreign developers and banks that fund the projects.

The company’s film, “Blue Heart,” documents the battle for the largest undammed river in Europe, Albania’s Vjosa; the effort to save the endangered Balkan lynx in Macedonia; and the plight of women from the village of Kruščica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who spearheaded a monthslong, 24/7 protest to protect their community’s only source of drinking water.

Robert Prioleau, a founding partner of Blue Ion, said his company decided to co-host a screening of the film in hopes that it will increase public awareness of the negative impacts of hydroelectric dams, as well as the local environmental issues facing the Reedy River.

Since the 1900s, the Reedy River has experienced severe pollution from nearby textile mills, sewage discharges, and runoff from increased urbanization. The river’s water quality, however, has improved over the past few decades thanks to cleanup efforts by a number of local conservation groups and government agencies.

Once the screening ends, Friends of the Reedy River will hold a presentation about their work to help improve the Reedy’s water quality, according to Prioleau.

The screening is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the main lounge of the West Village Lofts at Brandon Mill, located at 25 Draper St. in Greenville. Tickets cost $5 per person. The evening will conclude with a prize drawing.

For more information, visit https://bit.ly/2RhaauD.

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