First ever Amazon of Europe Day kicks off with “Big Jumps” into Mura, Drava and Danube rivers on Sunday
“14 July is about the celebration of this amazing riverine landscape shared by five countries. It will also be an annual powerful reminder of Martin Schneider-Jacoby, who pioneered the international protection of the transboundary river system of ‘Europe’s Amazon’, and will encourage us what we can achieve when we work together”, said WWF freshwater expert Arno Mohl.
Even before the Amazon of Europe Day, various outdoor activities on and along the Mura, Drava and Danube have started in different places of the region. In Croatia, conservationists dedicated the past four weeks to reveal the “Seven River Wonders of Croatia” to the public, showing the natural river treasures which the country contributed to Europe’s natural heritage when it joined the EU on 1 July.
Croatia’s protected rivers like the Danube, Drava, Mura, Sava, Neretva, Ombla and Zrmanja are now part of the Natura 2000 network but are still threatened by river channelling, gravel and sand extraction and hydropower plants – measures that have to be now, more than ever, in accordance with EU law.
A boat tour from Bad Radkersburg in Austria to Hrastje Mota in Slovenia will be carried out where the Mura River straddles along the two countries as a natural border and is protected as a Natura 2000 site. Just at this western entrance door to the future Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube, a disastrous hydro dam is likely to be built to destroy Slovenia’s largest floodplain forest.
On 14 July citizens and politicians from Croatia and Hungary are invited to celebrate together at Legrad, where the Mura River flows into the Drava. Zoltan Illes, Hungarian state secretary for environmental affairs, will be present. WWF and partners plan to hand over a petition to the Croatian minister of the environment Mihael Zmajlović, demanding a better protection of the Croatian rivers, now referring to EU law.
Participants of the event will also take part in the “Big Jump” into the waters of Mura and Drava
as a demonstration for living rivers, in contrary to lifeless channels that serve only for navigation and electricity production.
At the same time in Sombor, Serbia, river enthusiasts will also jump into the Danube and celebrate their share of the “Amazon of Europe”. Kids will paint their visions of the biosphere reserve in colourful drawings that will be presented at an exhibition at the Bodrog festival in the village of Bački Monoštor in August.
“In memorial of Martin Schneider-Jacoby who was born on 14 July, the Amazon of Europe Day will become a symbol of people’s concern and commitment to save their rivers across borders”, said Gabriel Schwaderer, executive director of EuroNatur. Martin Schneider-Jacoby had worked for EuroNatur ever since its founding in 1987 until his sudden death in August 2012.
“Martin Schneider-Jacoby had dedicated most of his life to the conservation of Central and East European and Balkan rivers but he sadly left us much too early. Thanks to his vision for large scale transboundary protection of the Danube, Drava and Mura rivers already in the early 1990s, he can truly be called the “father” of the UNESCO biosphere reserve. Together we will carry on and finalise what Martin began”, concluded Arno Mohl of WWF and Gabriel Schwaderer of EuroNatur.