International Regatta demonstrates against the destruction of Danube’s unique nature
„The channelling project is a criminal act not only against Croatia’s natural heritage. It would rip right through the heart of the prospective transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube”, the „Amazon of Europe”, said Arno Mohl, International Freshwater expert at WWF Austria.
Since April 2010 the Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure and the Croatian Agency for Inland Waterways have been pushing for the regulation of 53 kilometres of the river which acts as a border between Croatia and Serbia. The measure shall be carried out between Batina and the confluence of the Danube and Drava at Osijek. 75 groins and heavy embankments would be built, thus heavily harming the natural river banks and transforming the meandering river into a lifeless canal.
At the beginning of October 2011, the Croatian Ministry of Environmental Protection started the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure for this project. This came just a few days after the Croatian Ministry of Culture applied to the UNESCO for the recognition of the same area – together with the Drava and Mura rivers – as a Transboundary Biosphere Reserve „Mura-Drava-Danube”.
„The Danube regulation plans contradict Croatia’s commitment and efforts to protect this area and they are against national and EU environmental laws”, Mohl said.
The proposed river regulation does not only threaten the unique species and wetland habitats of the region, but is also likely to have negative impact on the drinking water, forests and ecotourism in the area.
„We are not going to accept that the livelihoods of local people and our unique environment are sacrificed for the benefit of a small group of profiteers”, said Jasmin Sadikovic from Zeleni Osijek.
According to Croatian authorities the purpose of the regulation is to improve navigation and flood protection in the area. However, no justification for the need of such measures is given. The area has no big settlements or infrastructure that might be threatened by floods, especially with nearby huge wetlands of Kopački rit and Gornje Podunavlje which serves as a retention areas and natural flood protection. Moreover, modern and sustainable navigation on the Danube does not require a regulated river bed.
„It seems, the main purpose of the plan is to maintain a system of outdated water management practises in Croatia”, Mohl said.
Regardless of their international background, participants in the regatta agreed that „This most beautiful stretch of the Danube must be preserved for future generations”. They appealed to the European Commission to act immediately to help stop this outdated plan and to avoid the irreversible destruction of Croatia’s and Europe’s natural treasures months before Croatia’s accession to the EU.
Regatta participants, WWF, Croatian NGO Zeleni Osijek (Green Osijek) and the Croatian Society for the Protection of Birds and Nature urge the Croatian government to immediately stop these destructive plans.