WWF and partners take action to preserve the Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers

Posted on 28 October 2011    
The meandering Drava River is one of Europe's best preserved rivers.
© Arno Mohl
Budapest, Hungary - More than 50 delegates from Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia attended today an international conference in Budapest, organized by the Hungarian Ministry of Rural Development in cooperation with WWF. The purpose of the conference is to define the next steps for the protection of the Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers as a Trans-boundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Amongst the participants are representatives of all five governments and conservation authorities, as well as deputies of NGOs and supporting partner organisations, such as UNESCO, Ramsar and Wetlands International.

As part of the conference, a road map was agreed to establish the first protected area in the world commonly shared and managed across five countries.

“The outcome of the conference is a great success. WWF is convinced that it will accelerate the proceedings in the five countries to protect their shared biodiversity hotspot along the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers”, said Arno Mohl, international freshwater expert at WWF Austria.

In March 2011, under the Hungarian EU-Presidency, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia signed a ministerial declaration to join their individual protected riverine areas under the umbrella of a Trans-boundary Biosphere Reserve. The five ministers agreed to hand over the planning and implementation of all further steps to an international coordination board consisting of three environmental experts from each country.

At the end of September 2011, the Croatian Ministry of Culture applied for the nomination of its respective riverine area at the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Secretariat in Paris, following the Hungarian application already in 2009.

At the conference, the 15 members of the coordination board pointed out that the next step towards the establishment of the pentalateral Biosphere Reserve is the application of Austria, Serbia and Slovenia to UNESCO.

However, controversial plans by Croatia cast a shadow over the efforts to create a common protection area. In October 2011, the Croatian Ministry of Environmental Protection started the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure for an engineering project in this area. The plan is to channel over 53 kilometres of the Danube river close to the border with Serbia. This would interrupt the natural flow of the Danube, threatening the heart of the Biosphere Reserve, Croatia’s unique Nature Park “Kopački Rit” and Serbia’s Special Nature Resreve “Gornje Podunavlje”.

“With regards to Croatia's entry into the EU, WWF urges the country's authorities to respect commitments and to immediately stop this destructive plan”, Mohl said.

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