Press Corner

Kick Off for the Protection of the “Amazon of Europe”

International Conference: WWF and Partners take action to preserve the
Unique Lifelines of the Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers

Budapest, Vienna, October 28th, 2011 – More than 50 delegates of Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia are currently attending an international conference in Budapest, organized by the Hungarian Ministry of Rural Development in cooperation with WWF. The purpose of the congress is to define the next steps for the protection of the Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers as a Transboundary UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Amongst the participants are environmental representatives of all five governments and conservation authorities, as well as deputies of NGOs and supporting partner organisations like UNESCO, Ramsar and Wetlands International. On today’s closing day, a road map was agreed to establish the first protected area in the world commonly shared and managed across five countries.

With an overall size of more than 800,000 hectares of unique riverine landscapes and wetlands, providing a habitat for rare species such as white-tailed eagles, sturgeons or otters, the Mura-Drava-Danube area is one of Europe’s biodiversity treasure troves.

In March 2011, under the Hungarian EU-Presidency, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and Slovenia signed a ministerial declaration to join their individual protected riverine areas under the roof of a Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. The five ministers responsible for environment and nature conservation agreed to hand over the planning and implementation of all further steps to an international coordination board consisting of three environmental experts of each country.

End of September 2011 the Croatian ministry of Culture applied for the nomination of its respective riverine area at the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Secretariat in Paris, following Hungarians application already in 2009.  

Today, the 15 members of the coordination board pointed out that the next step towards the establishment of the pentalateral Biosphere Reserve is the application of Austria, Serbia and Slovenia at the UNESCO.

“The outcome of the conference is a great success. WWF is convinced that it will accelerate the five country’s proceedings to protect their shared biodiversity hotspot along the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers”, says Arno Mohl, international freshwater expert of WWF Austria.

Controversial plans, nevertheless, cast a shadow over the efforts for a common protection area. In October 2011, the Croatian Ministry of Environmental Protection started the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure for an engineering project within this area. The plan is to channel over 53 kilometres of the Danube river, where Croatia borders Serbia. This measurement would interrupt the natural flow of the Danube threatening the heart of the Biosphere Reserve, Croatia’s unique Nature Park “Kopački Rit” and Serbians Special Zoological Reserve “Gornje Podunavlje”.

The regulation plan contradicts the joint efforts of the five countries and in particular the Croatian Ministry of Culture to protect this area in its meandering natural beauty. “Particularly with regard to Croatia’s entry into the EU, WWF urges the country’s authorities to respect commitments and to immediately stop the destructive plan on the natural Danube”, Mohl claims. The Mura-Drava-Danube area will at last represent Europe’s largest riverine protected area which accommodates a national heritage to the whole of Europe.