A WWF restoration project in Hungary brings life back to a Danube island
Although part of a nature conservation area, the side branch of the island has been artificially blocked by a rockfill dam more than 30 years ago. The idea was to sustain more water in the main river branch instead of the side arm so that navigation is improved. Additionally, water pipes have been placed in the dam to take drinking water from the wells on one side of the side arm and send it to a purification station on the other.
As a result the riverbed has filled up fast. It became a big mud pond with a stagnant surface. Water was flowing only for several days every year, during the highest floods, accelerating sedimentation.
WWF and partners decided to revitalise the side arm and create a good quality semi-natural softwood forest on Liberty Island. Both are important alluvial habitats for many fish and birds.
The key element of the revitalisation was the opening of the rock fill dam and the dredging of the silted up side arm. Before opening of the dam, the water pipes located inside had to be relocated under the riverbed.
During the 5-year restoration process WWF planted native, alluvial softwood forest which is typical of floodplain areas. The non-native tree plantations and colonising invasive plants were removed.
After the restoration, the water flowing around the island is always at least two meters deep. There is a continuous connection with the main branch of the Danube River. It is no surprise that the first fish species are already returning to the side branch. Hopefully, they will spawn next spring.
Liberty Island is located in South Hungary at the left side of the Danube River. It is about 3 km long and 150 m wide. Its territory is 47 ha.
Liberty Island was purchased by WWF Hungary in 2009 on behalf of the Danube-Drava National Park Directorate with funding from the EU’s Life + Nature fund and The Coca-Cola Company. The restoration works were carried out in partnership with the Danube-Drava National Park, the Lower-Danube District Water Management Directorate and the water company DRV.