Land Water Adventures donates for Balkan Rivers

You don’t need a million euro budget to make a significant contribution to protecting the Balkan Rivers. This is exemplified by Land Water Adventures (LWA), a company dedicated to sustainability, which operates tours along wild rivers like the Soča. Their motto: experience wilderness, preserve wilderness. Since 2018 LWA has been active in many ways to raise awareness for the threats to Balkan Rivers and to gain supporters for the campaign „Save the Blue Heart of Europe”. In this interview, LWA founder Dr. Sebastian Schmidt and LWA nature conservation officer Susanne Blech speak about their conviction.

© Land Water Adventures
Dr. Sebastian Schmidt, founder of Land Water Adventures © Land Water Adventures
©  Land Water Adventures
Susanne Blech, LWA nature conservation officer © Land Water Adventures

What's it like paddling an untamed river?

Schmidt: What attracts me to natural rivers is how unpredictable they are. It’s an incredible feeling to ride on a river which is new practically every day because it has changed with the water level. New sandbanks have formed or whirlpools have rearranged the stones. The diversity of animals is tremendous. You simply feel that the river is alive. All this conveys a feeling of wilderness and freedom. 

What feelings does the knowledge about the hydropower boom on the Balkans spark? 

Blech: Extent and speed of the hydropower expansion are shocking. It gives the impression of lack of concept on the one hand and powerlessness on the other. 

Why do you support the „Save the Blue Heart of Europe“ campaign?

Blech: As water sports and nature enthusiasts, a dam boom of course alarms us. Most of our rivers in Central Europe have been converted into transport routes or electric power sources. Dammed and fragmented, many have lost their wildness and much of their ecological quality. The question is: Don’t we have alternatives today? Do we really need this vast expansion? Where everything now has a lobby, EuroNatur is the lobby for the last wild rivers. 

Schmidt: The campaign chose the right approach by first establishing the basis for checking the legality and necessity of the planned hydropower plants in the Balkans. We regard it as our corporate responsibility to make our customers aware of how fragile and in need of protection the beauty of the rivers is. If we manage to focus the outcry of the Central European outdoor enthusiasts, this will be a tool, too.

Is Land Water Adventures generally opposing hydropower?

Blech: We do not oppose hydropower as a matter of principle. We are calling for a sensible use as part of the energy mix and for a master plan. As a provider of sustainable tourism, we also stand for revenues that directly benefit the local population. But the more severe nature is transmuted, the less income can be generated by soft tourism. In the case of large-scale projects such as this dam boom, there’s always the question who the profiteers are in the end. Often the profit is privatised, but the community has to bear the damage.

You screened „Blue Heart” at your season closing event 2018. How did the audience react?

Schmidt: I was a little concerned about how the film would be accepted. Our guests might have said: Why such a sad topic at this beautiful event? But that wasn’t the case. They immediately felt that it is coherent for us to be involved in this matter. In addition to deeply moved reactions during the screening, visitors also busily shared EuroNatur Facebook posts afterwards. There is a strong desire to be able to say to oneself: “I take some action against nature destruction”. You just have to make opportunities available, and that’s what you do at EuroNatur.

Do you think that we, in the role of David, can save the Balkan Rivers from Goliath?

Blech: The question is: Are we really David? We would be happy if your initiative has the greater staying power. If we join forces, we’re no longer David.

Schmidt: We just have to succeed! It would be an enormous damage to irrecoverably lose this fantastic nature. When we heard that you campaign for Europe’s first wild river national park along the Vjosa, this impressed us very much.
Blech: This is an incredibly strong image for us! We already have marine protected areas, but there’s no protected area for a whole river, from its source all the way down to its mouth in the ocean. We think that EuroNatur embarks on a very interesting and absolutely necessary path.

Interview: Katharina Grund

More about the nature conservation engagement of Land Nature Adventures: www.land-water-blog.de/en/nature-conservation/

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© Kerstin Sauer
© Kerstin Sauer

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Markus Dressnandt
phone: +49 7732 9272 23
E-Mail: unternehmen(at)euronatur.org

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