Croatia: Unique Riverscape of the Sava in jeopardy

A broad river flowing throug a forest

Sava: one of the last natural river systems in Central Europe

© Kerstin Sauer

Sava-Conference convoked by EuroNatur brings lobbyists together 

Press release of April 19, 2011

Radolfzell. Nature conservationists and representatives from the shipping industry at one table: On the symposium "Navigable Waterway and Natura 2000 Site: the future of the river Sava" held by EuroNatur on April 13 and 14 at the Goethe-Institute in Zagreb, different lobbying groups searched for viable proposals regarding an ecologically compatible navigation on the river Sava. Gabriel Schwaderer, director of the Nature Heritage Fund EuroNatur, summarized the outcome of the symposium as follows: "Though the future of the river Sava and its unique floodplain forests is still uncertain, by holding this symposium we have achieved to create the platform for a broad public debate. Furthermore, we are very satisfied that the Sava-Commission will abstain from their original plan to penetrate 18 of the river meanders."

During their recent conference, the secretary of the International Sava Commission pleaded for not intervening in the natural course of the river. According to present projects of the Croatian Shipping Authority, the waterway shall be stabilized by groins and river bank reinforcements. Field reports from other rivers however have proven that such impacts strongly damage the ground water regime and the habitat of many plant and animal species.
EuroNatur emphasized that the Shipping Authority and nature conservationists have also interests in common; both suffer from extreme low water and a sinking river stage during summer. "It is imperative to protect the river from any further withdrawal of gravel. Additionally, the Sava Commission should deal with the improvement of the water regime in the catchment area as one of their main tasks", claims Martin Schneider-Jacoby, project leader at EuroNatur. Especially during the dry season, ships cannot navigate the Sava due to low water.

Due to the fact that many expert questions are still unanswered and the assessment of environmental sustainability relies on an insufficient database, in EuroNatur's judgement it is imperative to conduct a comprehensive study on the ecology of the river and to make precise assessments about the impacts of each and every proposed measure of river regulation before any further interventions take place. 

The Sava floodplains are the largest of its kind in Europe. More than 1500 square kilometres protect Zagreb, Belgrade and many other cities from floodwater. The economic value of the floodplains relating to climate and flood protection alone is estimated in over 4.5bn euro. "The economic and ecologic value of the floodplains must be taken into account very carefully before intervening in a river system", stresses EuroNatur project leader Martin Schneider-Jacoby.

The Croatian Nature Protection Authority has nominated the river Sava and its floodplains for being included in the European ecological network "Natura 2000". The corresponding EU-regulation regarding a ban on all technical interventions that entail a deterioration of the current ecological conditions of the river system already applies, unless such interventions are compensated by adequate protection measures. 

EuroNatur will continue playing a part in the progress of discussions about the future of the river Sava and will contribute to the development of ecologically sustainable solutions, always giving priority to the conservation of the century-old natural and cultural landscape along the river Sava. According to EuroNatur, interventions in the natural river system to intensify navigation should only be considered in case no better alternatives, such as railway systems, exist.

For further enquiries and interview partners please contact:
Konstanzer Straße 22
78315 Radolfzell
Phone: (0)7732 - 92 72 24
Fax: (0)7732 - 92 72 22
Media contact: Angie Rother
contact: Dr. Martin Schneider-Jacoby

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