"We think it's high time to invest in keeping one of the region's most important capital assets, its nature, and restore it where necessary," says Philip Weller, Director of WWF's Danube Carpathian Programme. "In addition to the resources already committed, WWF is now approaching the international funding organizations and the European Union to provide expertise and financial help so that the plans for action can become reality."
Four signatories - who last year signed an agreement on the protection of the lower Danube - have already made the first steps towards putting their commitments into practice:
- Bulgaria has prepared a conservation and restoration strategy for the floodplain forests on sixty-nine Danube islands which are crucial for the area's biodiversity.
- Romania is undertaking further restoration of floodplain islands and delta areas many of which formed land reclaimed for agricultural use . However, the conversion failed because of changes to the water regime and consequent salinization. Measures will be taken to restore the natural balance and the water purification capacity of the floodplains. Ukraine has started similar projects to compliment restoration actions which are already taking place in the Odessa area.
- Moldova is working on a project to minimise agricultural pollution on the Prut river, a large tributary to the Danube.
Conservation measures often contribute directly to livelihoods. The restoration of floodplains will increase numbers of fish, which provide the basis for local fisheries. Families in the Danube delta also develop infrastructure for ecotourists. Floodplains secure the capacity for natural water purification - their restoration is vital for drinking water and therefore for health and well-being of at least 15 million people.
"This is action for nature as well as for the people living in the area," says Ms Jasmine Bachmann, WWF freshwater team-leader. "Since the year 1900, 80 per cent of floodplains along the Danube have been destroyed. Now we must protect and restore wherever needed."
For further information:
Mark Vanderbeeken, European Freshwater Communications Manager, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org