Posted on 27 June 2016
The first results can be seen at Neusiedler See in Austria and Siroki Rit in Serbia
Vienna – On the eve of Danube Day, 29 June, WWF and The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) have announced the annual progress of their seven-year Living Danube Partnership to restore vital wetlands and floodplains along the Danube River by 2020.
The Danube, which is the European Union’s longest river, has seen 80% of its floodplains and wetlands disappear due to human interventions over the past 150 years. The result has been plummeting fish stocks and wildlife populations, decreasing water quality and ability to absorb floodwaters.
The Living Danube Partnership directly contributes to one-third of the objectives of Danube countries to restore 151.3 km² of floodplain and wetland areas by 2021.
Over the restoration period, measures such as opening 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.
“Together, WWF and The Coca-Cola Foundation – alongside local authorities and organisations in the countries that the Danube River passes through – have begun restoring these vital wetlands and floodplains for the benefit of people and nature, with first results at Neusiedler See in Austria and Siroki Rit in Serbia,” said Andreas Beckmann, Director of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.
To raise awareness of the importance of wetlands and their conservation and restoration, the Living Danube Tour of WWF and Coca-Cola has visited more than 36 locations across Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia, reaching over 60,000 people directly.
“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,” said Sofia Kilifi, Public Affairs & Sustainability Manager at Coca-Cola Central & Southern Europe. “We’ve been working with WWF since 2007 to help conserve freshwater resources around the world and to make meaningful changes to our business.
What has been achieved so far in each of the six countries:
In Austria, the project has restored some of 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 groundwater levels, which result in an interruption of salt transport from the groundwater to the soil surface.
The aim of the project was to retain water by building weirs in the drainage ditches and thus raise the groundwater table to former levels, which leads to bringing back to nature up to 1,000,000 m3
of water. The activities also benefit local tourism, which is dependent on the abundance of flora - mainly birds - around the salt habitats, as well as agriculture, which has also suffered from the low groundwater level.
In Bulgaria, the project focuses 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 30 km² of river habitats that are home to 6 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 marking and restocking, will help improve the river’s conservation status. Anglers have also been educated about the value and methods for preserving river connectivity.
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.
In Croatia, the project focuses on restoration activities along the Drava River, which is part of the future five-country Mura-Drava-Danube Trans-Boundary Biosphere Reserve, 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 seven sidearms that will improve natural river dynamics and habitats, flood risk mitigation, ecotourism and recreation. This is the first EU LIFE Nature project in Croatia, also supported by Coca-Cola. It was officially launched on 17 June 2016.
In Hungary, the project focuses 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 across Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia.
The aim is restore the Barcs-Old-Drava oxbow, which is the longest natural riverside lake in Hungary, on the left side of the Drava River, spanning 15 km. This transboundary restoration work demonstrates a relatively simple and cost-effective way of improving the ecological status of the wetlands and surrounding forests, and developing recreation with new angling platforms.
In addition, similar wetland restoration projects in Hungary will enhance sustainable land use and provide space for rare and threatened species along the Drava.
In Romania, the projects will focus on restoration work at the former Garla Mare Fish Farm along the Lower Danube Green Corridor, the location for one of Europe’s most ambitious wetland protection and restoration initiatives. WWF has already become one of the custodians of the Natura 2000 site at Garla Mare.
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 beekeeping.
Further wetland restoration projects in Romania will also provide space for rare and threatened species, reduce the flood risks and enhance sustainable land use.
In Serbia, the project focuses on restoration work of the Siroki Rit wetland which has already started and will be finished in 2017. The area lies on the Danube floodplain, but was disconnected from the river by dykes. The aim is to improve the water regime throughout the year.
Restoration will strengthen the Mura-Drava-Danube Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. The team has already received a government award for the restoration works implemented.
About The Coca-Cola 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.
The Coca-Cola Company has been an important partner in supporting WWF’s conservation work. In 2007, we announced a transformational partnership to conserve freshwater resources throughout the world and make meaningful changes to TCCC’s business.
The Coca-Cola Foundation is the global philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company. Since its inception in 1984, The Foundation has awarded $675 million to support sustainable community initiatives worldwide, including replenishing water, empowering women, and enhancing the well-being of people and communities.
Explore more details about our partnership: http://worldwildlife.org/water/coca-cola