Lubāns is the biggest dammed lake in Europe

Lake Lubāns is not only Latvia's largest lake at more than 80 square kilometers, but it is the largest lake in Europe to be contained by dams, dykes or levees, being dammed on all four sides, reports Latvian Radio.

Five years ago, as a result of prolonged rains, the bank of the North Dam in Gaigalava parish, Rēzekne district was washed away, coming dangerously close to the road built along the lakeside. At that time, the washed-out slopes of the dyke were strengthened with dolomite fragments, but even then it was clear that more serious dam restoration work was needed. Now, the North Dam has been restored, reducing the threat of floods in an area of ​​almost 32 thousand hectares in Rēzekne, Gulbene, Madona and Balvi districts.

The locals still remember how it used to be before the dam was here and spoke to Latvian Radio about it.

"There was no road, nothing. We drove along in tractors, we caught fish with a net," said Jānis Birze. He lives in Gaigalava parish, one and a half kilometers from Lubāns.

For several decades now, a dolomite rubble dam has been running along the northern shore of the lake, thanks to which it was also possible to build a road from Gaigalava to Degumnieki.

"I think the 1960s, that's when the works started," said Stanislavs Škesters of the Latgale region real estate department of the Ministry of Agriculture, about the construction of the North Dam.

"The quality of the dams was quite poor, and that's why in 2017, when there were heavy rains and floods in Latgale and Latvia, we had a problem that the North Dam was almost broken. And this could cause very big problems for us – for the residents who live in Madona, Rēzekne, and Varakļani counties," Škesters said.

He told Latvijas Radio about the events that took place five years ago, when the waters of Lake Lubān washed away the slopes of the dam due to the heavy rainfall in September. At that time, shore strengthening works were carried out.

"But it was a temporary solution, that's why we decided that we need to make better investments, bigger ones, and within the framework of the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) funds, we carried out the repair of the North Dam," Škesters said.

"We have carried out restoration work on the protective surface and body of the dam, as well as the improvement of the beach for about half a kilometer. Further on, there is a dam of about one and a half kilometers strengthened with gabions, and at the same time, it has been possible to create a pedestrian path, connecting the 'Lighthouse' with the beach area," Škesters said.

"Fishermen have a place to go and put their boats into the lake, because before it was very difficult and there were no such places... The footpath is a very big plus, because before there was nowhere to walk. In autumn, I already saw some mothers with strollers, even though the whole project was not finished," said Agnese Kruste, consultant of the Lubāns wetland information center.

Dagnis Vasilevskis, head of the Control and Monitoring Sector of the Latgale Regional Administration of the Nature Protection Board, positively assessed the reordered shore and denied there was any negative impact on nature.

"It was important that the works did not take place during the nesting season of the birds. The strip that is the most important for birds, for waterfowl, the reeds, has not been touched. The strip between the road and the lake has been touched," he said.

Vasiļevskis told Latvijas Radio that the well-maintained lake shore and created open spaces could even increase biological diversity.

Stanislavs Škesters, said three of the four Lubāns dams have already been restored. Discussions are currently taking place about the East Dam, because within the framework of the development of the nature protection plan for the Lubāns wetland, one of the ideas is its demolition, though this measure is opposed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

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