Bucharest, Romania - In a ceremony today, WWF, the conservation organization, honoured the governments of Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine for their commitment to create Europe's largest, cross-border wetlands protection and restoration initiative. This commitment signed today by the four governments will establish the "Green Corridor for the Danube", a stretch of at least 600,000 hectares of existing protected wetlands and new ones along the Danube River. Recognized as a Gift to the Earth by WWF, the corridor represents an important contribution to WWF's target to increase by 50% the area of freshwater ecosystems conserved worldwide. "Intact wetlands and floodplains provide extraordinary benefits to people and nature," said Philip Weller, Director of WWF's Danube-Carpathian Programme. "We welcome an initiative of this scale to manage the region's natural habitats in ways that also provide economic benefits such as fisheries and tourism." The Green Corridor for the Danube will include wetlands, lakes, flooded areas, flooded forests and meadows. In the last 100 years, more than 80% of the Danube River Basin's wetlands and floodplains have been destroyed. Until now, the floodplains have been disconnected islands of green following adverse impacts of development, dam construction, pollution and war. The aim is to reconnect these islands to restore the essential wetland functions to benefit local people and promote healthy ecosystems. Today's ceremony was attended by the president and the prime minister of Romania, all environmental ministers of Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and the Ukraine, as well as Dr. Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International. The corridor will initially include 400,000 hectares of existing protected areas; 100,000 hectares of newly protected areas; and 200,000 hectares of priority sites for restoration, some of which are included in the existing and newly protected areas. "It is our vision that other countries along the Danube will join this initiative for a full-length Green Corridor, connecting Danube countries from the Black Sea to the Alps, including many EU accession countries," Romica Tomescu, Romania's Minister of Waters, Forests and Environmental Protection, said today. For further information: WWF Danube Carpathian Programme Office Mariahilfer Str. 88a/3/9 A-1070 Vienna, Austria Tel: +43-1-524-5470 Fax: +43-1-524-5470-70 Email: email@example.com Kyla Evans WWF International tel: +41 22 364 9550 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Notes to editors: B-roll footage and photos are available from the DCPO (contact details above).