Communities in six countries to benefit from seven-year restoration project along the Danube river



Posted on 25 June 2014  | 
One of the aims of the partnership is to restore Danube floodplains to demonstrate the benefits of wetland systems to the public and decision makers.
One of the aims of the partnership is to restore Danube floodplains to demonstrate the benefits of wetland systems to the public and decision makers.
© Alexander IvanovEnlarge
Sofia/Vienna - WWF and The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) have announced a new, seven-year partnership to restore vital wetlands and floodplains along the Danube River.

The Danube, which is the European Union’s longest river, has seen 80% of its floodplains and wetlands disappear over the past 150 years. Damage to the river has mainly been caused by diking, dredging and damming, which has taken place for a number of reasons including the need for hydroelectric power, shipping and to keep floodwaters at bay.

The effects have been wide-ranging and include plummeting fish and wildlife populations, decreases in water quality and damage to wetlands, which are no longer able to provide much needed biodiversity hotspots or to act as buffers to floodwaters.

Over the restoration period, measures such as removing dykes and dams to reconnect former floodplains and improve flooding capacity, restoring the wetland habitats of animal and plant species and building a fish pass will be funded with a grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation. The impact of these improvements cannot be underestimated, with the recent flooding of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, providing just one example of a natural disaster with devastating consequences which may have been alleviated if surrounding floodplains had been at full capacity.

“Together, WWF and The Coca-Cola Company – alongside local authorities and organisations in the countries that the Danube River passes through – will conserve and restore these vital wetlands and floodplains for the benefit of people and nature,” said Andreas Beckmann, Director of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme. “At the same time, we intend to create a regional movement for wetland conservation and restoration, as well as good water stewardship.”

“This is the biggest single programme in Europe that The Coca-Cola Foundation has supported to date” said Ulrike Sapiro, Director of Community and Environment for Coca-Cola in Europe.
“We’ve been working with the WWF since 2007 to help conserve freshwater resources around the world and to make meaningful changes to our business. We recognise that water is a scarce resource. It’s also the primary ingredient in our products. That’s why we are committed to continually improving how efficiently we use water, working with WWF to set ourselves ambitious global targets.”

To raise awareness of wetland conservation and restoration, WWF and Coca-Cola are embarking on a Living Danube Tour to start on Danube Day (29 June, 2014) in Serbia. The tour will demonstrate the importance of wetlands and floodplains for the wellbeing of both people and nature using engaging and educating tools, and will visit more than 25 locations across Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Serbia by the end of summer 2015.

The Partnership for a Living Danube in details

- Ground-breaking new partnership between WWF and Coca-Cola launched to restore vital wetlands and floodplains along the Danube River
- The ambitious project aims to increase the river capacity by the equivalent of 4,800 Olympic sized swimming pools (12 million m³) and to restore over 7,422 football pitches worth of wetland habitat (53 km²) by 2020
- $4.4 million grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation to fund restoration in six countries (Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria) over seven years


Country by country

Austria
In Austria, the project aims to restore the last soda lakes, a unique habitat next to the Neusiedler See and close to Coca-Cola’s Edelstal production facility.
These last lakes - with their milky-white waters - are threatened by poor drainage channels and consequently by lower ground water levels, which result in an interruption of salt transport from the groundwater to the soil surface.
The aim of the project is to close drainage ditches and thus raise the groundwater table to former levels, which leads to bringing back to nature of 650,000 to 1,000,000 m3 of water. The activities will also benefit local tourism which is dependent on the abundance of flora - mainly birds - around the salt habitats, as well as agriculture which also suffers from the current low ground water level.

Bulgaria
In Bulgaria, the projects will focus on the Lower Danube Green Corridor, the location for one of Europe’s most ambitious wetland protection and restoration initiatives.
The aim is to restore over 30km² of river habitats that are home to six threatened and endangered fish species by removing migration obstacles and building a fish pass.
This restoration work, along with targeted conservation activities for these species (such as restocking) will help improve the river’s conservation status. In addition, another wetland restoration project in Bulgaria will enhance the natural condition of the river ecosystem, encourage sustainable land use and provide space for rare and threatened species.

Croatia
In Croatia, the project will focus on restoration activities along the Drava River, which is part of the future five-country Mura-Drava-Danube Trans-Boundary Biosphere Reserve, sometimes referred to as “Europe’s Amazon”, as it stretches from Austria, across Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia and onto Serbia.
The aim is to restore or recreate five sidearms that will improve natural river dynamics and habitats, flood risk mitigation, ecotourism and recreation. In addition, restoration work will be conducted on the Barcs-Old-Drava oxbow, a natural riverside lake on the left side of the Drava River.
Led out of Hungary, this transboundary restoration work will demonstrate a relatively simple and cost effective way of improving the ecological status of the wetlands and surrounding forests, so as to develop ecotourism.

Hungary
In Hungary, the project will focus on restoration work along the Barcs-Old-Drava former meander, in cooperation with Croatia. The area is part of the future five-country Mura-Drava-Danube Trans-Boundary Biosphere Reserve, sometimes referred to as “Europe’s Amazon”, as it stretches from Austria, across Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia and onto Serbia.
The aim is restore the Barcs-Old-Drava oxbow, which is a natural riverside lake on the left side of the Drava River. This transboundary restoration work will demonstrate a relatively simple and cost effective way of improving the ecological status of the wetlands and surrounding forests, so as to develop ecotourism.
In addition, similar wetland restoration projects in Hungary will enhance sustainable land use and provide space for rare and threatened species.

Romania
In Romania, the projects will focus on restoration work at the Garla Mare Fish Farm along the Lower Danube Green Corridor, the location for one of Europe’s most ambitious wetland protection and restoration initiatives.
The aim is to connect the transformed wetlands to the natural flood pulse of the River Danube. This will not only produce ecological benefits, but will improve the river’s retention capacity in the event of future flooding. It will also provide ground for sustainable land use such as grazing or bee keeping.

Serbia
In Serbia, the project will focus on restoration work on the Bestrement oxbow, situated in the Special Nature Reserve “Gornje Podunavlje”. This lies on the Danube floodplain, but is disconnected from the river by dykes and almost totally overgrown by reeds and willows that are closing the open water.

In the past the area was a very important breeding site and migration stop-over for up to 700 pairs of heron, but it has vanished as a result of drying and lack of feeding sites. The aim is to improve the water regime throughout the year using existing irrigation canals by construction of a sluice.

Restoration will strengthen the Mura-Drava-Danube Transboundary Biosphere Reserve initiative.

About the Coca-Cola and Company and WWF
Since 2007, The Coca-Cola Company and WWF have worked together to conserve and protect freshwater resources around the world while helping to improve the efficiency of Coca-Cola’s global operations. To date, the partnership has led to major conservation gains, including helping to improve the ecological health of seven of the world’s most important freshwater basins across five continents, helping improve the Coca-Cola system’s water efficiency by 20 percent, working to prevent 5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions across Coca-Cola’s global manufacturing operations, and promoting more sustainable agricultural practices in the company’s supply chain.
One of the aims of the partnership is to restore Danube floodplains to demonstrate the benefits of wetland systems to the public and decision makers.
One of the aims of the partnership is to restore Danube floodplains to demonstrate the benefits of wetland systems to the public and decision makers.
© Alexander Ivanov Enlarge
Danube partnership launch, holding props of Danube species
The launch of the partnership at the meeting of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River in Sofia, with representatives of Danube governments, WWF and The Coca-Cola Company holding props of Danube species
© WWF/Georgi Iliev 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
European Sea Eagle (Haliaetus albicilla), carrying a fish in its talons and being harried by a seagull, Flatanger, Trondheim, Norway.
Sea eagles are some of the rare birds along the Danube
© Wild Wonders of Europe /Staffan Widstrand / WWF Enlarge

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