Sava river and Europe’s largest alluvial forests at risk

Natural banks of the river Sava

Natural riverside of the Sava.

© Martin Schneider-Jacoby

Will the Sava make a mockery of the EU Water Framework Directive?

Press release from 2. October 2012



Radolfzell.   One of the last natural rivers in Europe is to be downgraded to ‘a (candidate) heavily modified water body’. At least this is how representatives of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Serbia rank the Sava in the latest draft of their management plan for the river. "If this classification continues to be used, it would be a terrible step in the wrong direction, particularly with view to Croatia’s impending accession to the EU", says Gabriel Schwaderer, managing director of the EuroNatur foundation for nature conservation.

  "Experts are in total agreement about the ecological value of the Sava. So the current talk of proposing to reclassify it as '(candidate) heavily modified water body' is all the more incomprehensible. It would seem the idea behind it is that it would be easier to push through hydraulic projects that could have a destructive effect on the environment. Actions like these make a complete mockery of the European Water Framework Directive as an effective instrument for the protection of rivers and lakes", says Schwaderer. If the Sava continues to be classified as ‘a (candidate) heavily modified water body’ in the final version of the management plan, one of the last natural river landscapes in Europe will be put at even greater risk. 

The Sava Commission, which comprises representatives from the ministries and public bodies of all the adjoining states and has received support from the EU, will soon formally adopt this document. This will mark a critical moment in deciding the fate of this natural paradise. The sword of Damocles is already hanging over the Sava as there are currently renewed efforts to implement the former Yugoslavia’s plan to build a Danube-Sava canal to connect the Sava to the port of Vukovar on the Danube. This 110-metre-wide canal would accelerate the demand for the expansion of the Sava for river traffic between Belgrade and Sisak and this would have an enormous detrimental effect on the natural balance of the river landscape. EuroNatur is critical of the environmental impact assessment for these hydraulic projects and does not consider them to be of sufficiently high quality.

In spite of this, the International Sava Commission has, to date, given no consideration at all to the preservation of the Sava as a European natural heritage site. "Along the Sava you can still see the sort of alluvial forests that existed a hundred years ago along the Rhine and the Danube in Germany. It’s high time the Sava commission fulfilled its obligations. There is a pressing need for them to come up with a management plan that prioritises the exceptional ecological value of the Sava and the habitats adjoining it. The Sava needs a well-thought out plan for conservation and renaturing and not more damage", says Gabriel Schwaderer. 

Background information:

  • The Sava Commission (ISRBC): The ISRBC is composed of two representatives from each of the states adjoining the Sava (Croatia, Bosnia-Herzogovnia, Slovenia and Serbia); one is a member and one a deputy member. The commission includes representatvies from both ministries and other official bodies. The ISRBC organises international co-operation along the river and was set up, amongst other things, to prevent the destruction of the river landscape.  



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main contact: Gabriel Schwaderer

press contact: Katharina Grund

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