WWF’s “Amazon of Europe” initiative is European Riverprize finalist

Posted on 13 September 2013  | 
Vienna, Austria – The WWF and EuroNatur initiative to establish a five-country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube“ across Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia has been recognized as a finalist for the 2013 European Riverprize of the International River Foundation.

The prize itself was awarded to the River Rhine for remarkable achievements in integrated river basin management following a 50 year legacy of river degradation and a devastating chemical accident in 1986.

“Being one of only four finalists is an important achievement and we regard this as an assignment for us to carry on combating unsustainable river management and upcoming plans for new hydropower dams as well as to increase the efforts for the restoration of already degraded river stretches in the Mura-Drava-Danube area”, said Arno Mohl, WWF Project leader. “I hope this nomination also inspires other initiatives all over Europe to fight for living rivers – there are many magnificent landscapes and rare species threatened and worth saving.”

The “Mura-Drava-Danube“, also known as the "Amazon of Europe", will be the world’s first five-country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Europe’s largest riverine protected area and can be seen as a flagship for regional cooperation and sustainable development based on a “green vision”. It will cover more than 800,000 hectares and be a safe home to the highest density of breeding pairs of White-tailed eagles in Europe and other endangered species such as the Little tern, Black stork, Otters and Beavers. 

The award, a sculpture which symbolizes a meandering river, was awarded during a celebratory gala in Vienna on Thursday evening.

WWF conservation work for the protection of the “Amazon of Europe” is financially supported by the MAVA Foundation and Asamer Holding.

About the IRF European Riverprize

Awarded by the International River Foundation in partnership with the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) and the European Centre for River Restoration (ECRR), the IRF European Riverprize is one of the world’s largest environmental awards, giving recognition, reward and support to those who have developed and implemented outstanding, visionary and sustainable programmes in river management. Read more here.  

The Mura-Drava-Danube initiative was competing with three other finalists who work on the Orbigo River in Spain, the Rhine River in all Rhine Basin countries and the Upper Drava River in Austria. Read more here

About the “Mura-Drava-Danube”Trans-Boundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

The Mura-Drava-Danube area is home to the highest density of breeding pairs of White-tailed eagles in Europe and other endangered species such as the Little tern, Black stork, Otters and Beavers. It is also the last refuge for the nearly extinct Ship sturgeon and an important stepping stone for more than 250,000 migratory waterfowls every year. The river ecosystem provides the people who live near it with drinking water and a natural flood protection, and is essential for sustainable forestry, agriculture and fisheries.

The struggle for these unique rivers and floodplains under the name “Amazon of Europe” has a long history. Since 1993, WWF, EuroNatur and local NGOs have been campaigning for the transboundary protection and against destructive river projects - river regulation, gravel and sand extraction, hydro dams - along the lower courses of the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers. Step by step, public administrations and NGOs have cooperated to jointly achieve the Biosphere Reserve. At the same time, river restoration projects have been enhanced and formal protection by the public administrations of the individual countries was pushed. During the last 15 years, the five governments set up 12 protected areas along their sections of the rivers, thus forming the backbone of trans-boundary protection.

In 2009 Croatia and Hungary signed a Joint Declaration, followed in 2011 by a five-country Ministerial Declaration. On 11 July 2012, the UNESCO MAB Committee in Paris officially approved the Croatian-Hungarian part of the Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube”. Since then 80 per cent of the future five-country protected area, corresponding to 630,000 hectares of riverine landscape, are already under international protection. And further good news is that Serbia plans to nominate its area for UNESCO designation in September 2013. Read more here
"Mura-Drava-Danube" team members and representatives of the governments of the five countries - Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia - during the award ceremony.
© David Prokop Enlarge
Arno Mohl and Tanja Nikowitz of WWF's
Arno Mohl and Tanja Nikowitz of WWF's "Mura-Drava-Danube" project team.
© David Prokop Enlarge
EU Commissioner for the environment Janez Potocnik at the award ceremony in Vienna.
EU Commissioner for the environment Janez Potocnik at the award ceremony in Vienna.
© David Prokop. Enlarge

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