WWF pushes for the establishment of Europe’s largest river protected area from Serbia to Austria | WWF

WWF pushes for the establishment of Europe’s largest river protected area from Serbia to Austria

Posted on
19 March 2010
Belgrade, Serbia - It is hoped that in 2011 the massive floodplain and wetland area along the Danube and its tributaries, the Drava and Mura Rivers, will become a trans-bondary “Mura-Drava-Danube" UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The planned protected area will cover about 800,000 ha, equalling 22 times the size of the city of Belgrade. It begins on the Serbian stretch of the Danube, in the Vojvodina province, and extends across Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia, and as far as Austria.

“The biodiversity in this area is considered to be the highest in Europe and can only be topped by few ecosystems on our continent”, says Duska Dimovic from WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme. “The planned Biosphere Reserve would guarantee the long term protection of the area at international level”, adds Dimovic.

This large-scale protection initiative is also a symbolic commitment to peaceful co-dependence, bringing current and future EU members closer to each other. “It is a unique symbol for a green vision of common understanding and peacekeeping in a unified Europe”, says Dr. Oliver Dulic, Minister for Environment and Spatial Planning of Serbia.

"Mura-Drava-Danube" Biosphere Reserve

The 600 km long Danube-Drava-Mura river ecosystem is considered to be Europe’s most precious floodplain and wetland area. All five countries have already established a network of 20 protected areas along the river system. It includes among others, the Special Nature Reserve “Gornje Podunavlje” in Serbia, the Nature Park “Kopacki Rit” in Croatia and the Danube-Drava National Park in Hungary, as well as Natura 2000 sites in Slovenia and Austria.

In September 2009, the Croatian and Hungarian governments already agreed to establish a single protection and management framework – a trans-boundary Biosphere Reserve.

“WWF is currently working with Serbia and the rest of the countries to extend the protected area to become a five-country Biosphere Reserve under the patronage of UNESCO”, says Arno Mohl, Project Leader for the “Mura-Drava-Danube" Biosphere Reserve from WWF Austria. Once established, it will be Europe’s largest river protected area and the world’s first protected area, shared and managed by five countries.

The Special Nature Reserve “Gornje Podunavlje” on the Serbian stretch of the Danube will be the focal point of this transboundary initiative. „Serbia is now in the unique position to boost this unparalleled international endeavour by integrating the important wetland area of Gornje Podunavlje into the transboundary initiative, says Dr. Oliver Dulic, Minister for Environment and Spatial Planning of Serbia. “Therefore, I’m delighted to give our full support to this cross-border project for the protection of our common European natural and cultural heritage”, he adds.

The floodplains and wetlands of Gornje Podunavlje, which are protected since 2001, with a size of 20,000 ha, are the largest in Serbia. Extending from the Hungarian border to Bogojevo, they are home to endangered species such as White-tailed Eagle, Black stork, otters and sturgeons. Moreover, they are vital for the socio-economic well being of the region. They are a major source of good drinking water, natural flood protection, sustainable forestry and fisheries as well as having an important role in promoting eco-tourism and environmental education.

Austrian company Asamer Holding is supporting the planned “Mura-Drava-Danube" Biosphere Reserve. “We are proud to contribute to one of the largest conservation projects in Europe. Our main ambition is to connect cross-national projects that lead to economical and ecological improvements”, says Dr. Manfred Asamer, chairman of Asamer Holding AG.

A management concept for the Biosphere Reserve has already been issued by WWF and EuroNatur, the not for profit organization which stands for the conservation of the European nature heritage.

Contact

Duska Dimovic, WWF-Danube Carpathian Programme/Serbia Tel.: +381 63 381 490
Arno Mohl, WWF Austria/Project Leader Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube", Tel.: +43 676 83 488 300

Background information

Asamer Holding - specialists in gravel, stone, cement, concrete, recycling and the processing of mineral raw materials, run their business according to environmental principles. "We use nature's resources. We do this fully aware of our responsibility with the aim of forming those exploitation sites that are returned to nature in such a way as to achieve re-naturalization in the sense of maximum biodiversity. It is our ambitious goal to leave behind more valuable habitats for plants and animals after the exploitation than they were before. Therefore, we closely cooperate with environmental organizations such as WWF".
The Danube-Drava confluence between Serbia and Croatia.
© Mario Romulic