Amazon of Europe Day celebrated across five countries

Posted on 15 July 2013  | 
Legrad, Croatia - The first Amazon of Europe Day was celebrated yesterday with various events on the natural riverbanks of the Mura, Drava and Danube. The three rivers span Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia and are set to become Europe’s largest cross-border protected area under the UNESCO flag. The event was organized by WWF in alliance with EuroNatur and many partner NGOs

“14 July is about the celebration of this amazing riverine landscape shared by five countrie”, said WWF Freshwater Expert Arno Mohl.

Croatians and Hungarians celebrated together at Legrad, where the Mura river flows into the Drava.

“Today we are raising awareness of the importance of the ‘Seven river wonders of Croatia' – the Danube, Drava, Mura, Sava, Neretva, Ombla and Zrmanja rivers”, said Irma Popovic Dujmovic of WWF in Croatia. “With Croatia’s accession to the European Union on 1st July, these rivers become part of the Natura 2000 network. But Croatia’s natural rivers are severely harmed by channelling, gravel and sand extraction and hydro dam projects, although such measures are contradicting EU law”.

WWF and partners handed over a petition to the Croatian Deputy Minister of Environment and Nature Protection Hrvoje Dokoza, demanding a better protection of Croatian rivers, now that the country is part of the EU.

“Along with numerous activities that we implement to protect the natural values of the extremely significant river ecosystem Mura-Drava-Danube, our wish is to bring the benefits of nature conservation closer to local people. The development of tourism in the internationally recognized biosphere reserve has strong potential and it can contribute significantly to the economic development of the area. Therefore the Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection wishes to collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism in the promotion of sustainable tourism in the area. We are planning some promotional activities for September”, Hrvoje Dokoza said.

A boat tour from Bad Radkersburg in Austria to Hrastje Mota in Slovenia where the Mura river serves as a natural border between the two countries, was also part of the Amazon of Europe Day. At precisely this point of entry into the future Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve "Mura-Drava-Danube", a controversial hydropower dam is planned to be built, destroying Slovenia’s largest floodplain forest.

Taking part in the “Big Jump” into the waters of Mura and Drava, hundreds of people expressed their wish for keeping rivers living, free from navigation and hydropower dams.

At the same time in Sombor, Serbia, river enthusiasts also jumped into the Danube and celebrated their share of the “Amazon of Europe”. Kids painted 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 memory 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 the organization was founded in 1987 and until his sudden death in 2012.

“Martin Schneider-Jacoby 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 this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Together we will carry on and finalise what Martin began”, concluded Arno Mohl of WWF and Gabriel Schwaderer of EuroNatur.
The "Big Jump" in Croatia.
© WWF Enlarge
Kids activities during Amazon of Europe Day in Croatia.
Kids activities during Amazon of Europe Day in Croatia.
© WWF Enlarge
Handing over petition to Croatian Deputy Minister of Environment and Nature Protection Hrvoje Dokoza.
Handing over petition to Croatian Deputy Minister of Environment and Nature Protection Hrvoje Dokoza.
© WWF Enlarge

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