Balkan River Defence originated from an honest intention to defend rivers from human greed. Leeway Collective founder Rok Rozman created a movement that combines outdoor sports, science, activism and art to addresses the root causes of river destruction in the Balkans.


The Balkan Peninsula is a biodiversity hotspot and home to the last pristine and intact river systems of Europe. Rivers here still flow unobstructed from the high mountains to the sea, feeding rich ecosystems and ancient cultures along the way. Rivers of the Balkans are facing a huge threat of unsanctioned and often illegal dam construction. Thousands of small and large hydro-power projects are planned or already underway, being pushed through under the disguise of saving the climate crisis, being promoted and funded as green energy. If the 2.700 dams between Slovenia and Albania get built, it would mean the end of the last pool of self-sustaining European freshwater wildlife populations, destroying the potential for sustainable tourism, threatening water sovereignty and the traditional lifestyle of locals as well as contributing to the extinction of freshwater fish and invertebrate species.


Balkan River Defence uses media exposure and direct actions, to target specific message at local decision makers, politicians and governments. BRD’s events – including the annual Balkan Rivers Tour – provides an opportunity for decision makers to sit down with the locals who are faced with the direct implications of dams, but who are often ignored. BRD directly affects change by not only exposing the issue of dams, but by producing direct dialogue with decision makers and government about river protection policies and legislation. We connect and support community-based organizations fighting for river conservation, ensuring commitment and long-term change.

By encouraging discussion about alternatives with all levels of government and citizens, BRD encourages alternatives to hydropower as well as proper environmental assessment and evaluation. BRD’s work exposes breaches in EU directives and conventions like Aarhus Convention, Water Framework Directive, Habitats Directive, and various national conventions as well as exposing destruction in Natura 2000 protected areas.

When Leeway Collective founder Rok Rozman came up with the idea for Balkan Rivers Tour in 2016, he had no idea that it would start a cascade of events and actions that would flow into an international river conservation movement, Balkan River Defence. What started as a crazy idea to kayak and raise awareness about rivers in the Balkans threatened by dams, grew into an effective tool to protect rivers, motivate people to act, and support those already fighting for rivers. 


Balkan River Defence is responsible for:

  • Direct actions for rivers in 10 countries
  • Kayaking actions on 43 rivers
  • 1.348 kilometers kayaked at our events
  • 141 days of actions
  • 27 participating nations
  • getting the topic to 10 national TV stations and/or radio stations
  • getting the topic to some of the biggest media outlets (BBC, ZDF, National Geographic, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera)
  • In cooperation with numerous involved individuals and NGO’s BRD helped stop at least 14 dams

“It has been cool to see how the idea to help small local fights against unnecessary dams developed into annual tours and a movement that is now an important player in the international river conservation scene, especially in the area of awareness raising and direct action. It is a proof that a sincere wish, determination and support from friends and cool brands can make big change; a proof that there is more to outdoor sports than just playing and showing off, it is also and above all a responsibility to protect what you love.” – Rok Rozman

To learn more about Balkan River Defence and Balkan Rivers Tours, please visit