2013: A WWF year in review in Central and Eastern Europe



Posted on 20 December 2013  | 
In 2013 WWF started a new initiative to protect nature across 12 countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The Green Heart of Europe is about the five natural riches of the region – forests, wilderness, large carnivores, rivers and wetlands, and the Danube sturgeon to be saved for the benefit of local people and mankind.

Rivers, wetlands and sturgeons

In 2013 three new transboundary wetland complexes along the Danube River between Bulgaria and Romania, which had been prepared by WWF, were approved by the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands. Seven new wetlands of international importance were also designated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in Romania with the support of WWF.

At a high-level meeting of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River representatives of Danube basin countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and the Ukraine, adopted guidelines for reducing the ecological damage of new hydropower projects.

WWF successfully concluded its largest conservation project in Hungary which had revitalized a 3 km long side arm and brought back the natural floodplain forest of Liberty Island on the Danube River.

A highly controversial river regulation project that would have turned the Drava-Mura confluence on the Hungarian-Croatian border into little more than a lifeless canal, was finally rejected by the Croatian authorities.

The WWF and EuroNatur initiative to establish a five-country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube“ across Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia was recognized as a finalist for the 2013 European Riverprize of the International River Foundation.

Many countries in the Danube basin would be increasingly threatened in the future by floods. Unfortunately, the natural capacity of many rivers to retain flood water is constantly being lowered, said WWF’s “Every hectare counts” study.

‘Get active for the sturgeons’ was the slogan of 2013 Danube Day, celebrated by the 14 Danube basin countries on 29 June.

Under a new EU LIFE project WWF is tackling overfishing in Romania and Bulgaria, the main direct threat to the survival of the endangered Danube sturgeons.

Ongoing illegal fishing and trade in caviar in Romania and Bulgaria was threatening the survival of sturgeons in the Danube river basin, found a new report by WWF and TRAFFIC.

Forests, wilderness and large carnivores

A fourth bear living in the wild in the Carpathian Mountains was equipped with a GPS-GSM collar to track its movements around its habitat.

Equipped with a radio collar, a female lynx was released in the Kalkalpen National Park in Austria.

The construction of two major roads in Bulgaria and Romania may destroy vital habitats, WWF warned. If completed as planned, the Lugoj-Deva highway in Romania could split the last functional ecological corridor between the Western Carpathians and the remote Apuseni Mountains. The new road and tunnel at Shipka in the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria could destroy a virgin forest with important bear and wolf habitats.

4,500 ha of Danube forests were preserved after the timely intervention of WWF and partnering environmental organisations against a controversial legal amendment.

Government officials, tourism agencies and NGOs were involved in the development of the sustainable tourism strategy for the Carpathians, the first common strategy for tourism across the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia.

Protected areas staff, WWF and other stakeholders from the Carpathian Region met in Slovakia to exchange experience and ideas for future cooperation at the Second Conference of the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas.

People and policy support

Representatives of the governments of eight countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia – endorsed a key agreement for the protection of the environment in the Adria region in South-Eastern Europe. WWF welcomed the historic milestone.

President of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev and European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik delivered the keynote addresses at the 'Saving resources: Moving towards a resource-efficient, green economy in the Danube Region' conference, organized by WWF in Sofia.

WWF launched “Leaders for life”, the first sustainable leadership programme in Romania, to develop a new generation of leaders who are trained to follow the principles of sustainability.

Thousands of Romanians took to the streets for weeks in the capital Bucharest to protest about resurrected plans for gold mining using cyanides in Rosia Montana.

WWF campaign in Romania to save the Carpathian rivers from unsustainable small hydropower got a first win after a hydro station  on Topolog River, which featured as an image of the campaign, was rejected by the local environmental authorities.

WWF and other citizen groups and NGOs of the ‘For the Nature’ coalition in Bulgaria demonstrated throughout 2013. The Black Sea coastline is still under threat from illegal construction. The century-old forests of Pirin National Park may be logged for the construction of ski runs and hotels.

The first ‘Amazon of Europe Day’ was celebrated with various events on the natural riverbanks of the Mura, Drava and Danube across Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia.

35 national and nature parks in five countries celebrated the second Carpathian Parks Day in iconic wilderness protected areas in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.

A record number of 25 celebrities joined forces with thousands of volunteers in the sixth edition of WWF’s National Day of Nature Parks in Bulgaria.

WWF started a new educational initiative – the Black Sea Box - for the 9- to 12-year olds in Bulgaria and Romania about the ecosystems and biodiversity of the Black Sea.

Four schools from Croatia, Moldova, Slovenia and the Ukraine won the best project award in the international school environment initiative of WWF and ERSTE Foundation European Schools for a Living Planet.

A project of WWF and partners in Hungary supported by the EU LIFE programme was selected as one of the six ‘Best’ LIFE Nature projects for 2012 and awarded at a ceremony during the Green Week in Brussels.
Happy Holidays by WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme
Happy Holidays by WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme
© WWF DCP Enlarge
Star trail in the night sky, Cheile Bicazului-Hasmas National Park, Carpathians, Transylvania, Romania.
© Wild Wonders of Europe /Cornelia Doerr / WWF Enlarge
WWF staff member Ivan Hristov, freshwater expert with Danube programme.
© WWF-Canon Enlarge
It is estimated that world sturgeon populations have declined by as much as 70 per cent in the past few decades.
© WWF-Canon / Hartmut Jungius Enlarge
25 March 2013
The release of Kora, the third lynx to be reintroduced in the Kalkalpen National Park, Austria
© Sieghartsleitner/Nationalpark Kalkalpen Enlarge
Brown bear (Ursus arctos) running near Zarnesti in the Central Carpathian Mountains, Romania.
© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon Enlarge
A protester waives the Romanian flag at a protest march to save Rosia Montana from a gold mine project
A protester waives the Romanian flag at a protest march to save Rosia Montana from a gold mine project
© Daniel Vrăbioiu Enlarge
During the final event of European Schools for a Living Planet, Romania, 2013.
During the final event of European Schools for a Living Planet, Romania, 2013.
© Lukas Ilgner Enlarge
Protesters carry umbrellas, a symbol of the political umbrella over Bansko Ski Zone.
Protesters carry umbrellas, a symbol of the political umbrella over Bansko Ski Zone.
© WWF Enlarge

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