Danube Day 2014: Much more about awareness and solidarity than ever before
But this year, our thoughts are with the friends and relatives of the victims of the devastating floods in Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia and Bulgaria and with the people of Ukraine. Danube Day 2014 will be much more about awareness and solidarity than ever before. The devastating consequences of floods may be alleviated if surrounding floodplains and wetlands were restored or preserved.
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.
These will be just some of the messages of the Living Danube Tour - a special mobile exhibit with WWF crew which will travel around Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania until the end of the summer of 2015. It will be on Ada Ciganlja island in Belgrade on 28-29 June. The next dates of the tour:
1 July 2014 – Novi Sad, Strand beach on the Danube
3 July 2014 – Sombor, official beach on the Danube channel
For Danube Day in Ukraine a travelling photo exhibition will make its first stop in Kiliya at the city council. The 20 spectacular pictures from WWF database will visit four other tonws by the Danube – Izmail, Reni, Bolgrad and Vilkovo, where it will stay at the permanent exposition of the visitor centre of the Danube Biosphere Reserve. The exhibition is part of the awareness campaign on the climate change adaptation in the Danube Delta. An information booklet is being distributed in 20 towns and villages in the area, together with a short animation video.
Danube Day in Bulgaria will be celebrated at the Sofia Zoo. The WWF will show what the results are from WWF expeditions to find the spawning sites of the sturgeons. A 4.5 m real size model of a beluga will be there too. The kids can participate in a sturgeon drawing competition.
Some of the current work of WWF in the Danube river basin:
Ground-breaking new partnership between WWF and Coca-Cola will restore vital wetlands and floodplains along the Danube River. The aim is 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.
WWF is also working on a restoration project over more than 900 hectares of agricultural land in the Mahmudia area of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, a Natura 2000 site in Romania. It aims to create conditions for maintaining biodiversity in the area and increase habitat connectivity by reducing fragmentation from embankments and drainage done in the past.
A WWF project about Danube sturgeons have been named ‘remarkable’ by the LIFE programme which is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment. The project sets out to stop the overexploitation of the critically endangered Danube sturgeons in Bulgaria and Romania and to secure the long term survival of the species by identifying and protecting their spawning and overwintering sites.
WWF has successfully concluded its largest conservation project in Hungary which revitalised a 3 km long side arm and brought back the natural floodplain forest of Liberty Island on the Danube River. The project also contributes to securing drinking water for the citizens of Pecs and Mohacs and enhances opportunities for eco-friendly tourism and recreation in the area.