Drava-Mura

Unique riverscape along five countries

© Martin Schneider-Jacoby
The steep banks of the Drava river make ideal habitats for kingfishers and bee-eaters. © Martin Schneider-Jacoby

In the border area between Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia lies one of the last intact dynamic riverscapes in Europe. The Drava flows through a wide corridor of meadows, riparian forests, vineyards and picturesque villages and towns. Its generously meandering course takes it to the point where it flows into the Danube in the borderland between Croatia and Serbia.

The courses of Mura and Drava as they join and then meet the Danube together form a huge, unique connected biotope for wildlife. This is the habitat of many rare animals and plants and a very valuable part of the European Green Belt.



Protected by the presence of the Iron Curtain
In the days of the Cold War the border area between the two hostile  blocks was sealed off  and for decades this prevented the “development” of large reaches of the Drava and Mura. The rivers were free to flow in natural style with the current creating  islands and steep banks.
 
These banks can reach a height of 40 metres, great cliffs of clay and sand. From them one can look out for miles over a riverscape of oxbow lakes, islands and riparian forest. The vertical fall of the banks is the chosen breeding spot of sand martins, bee-eaters and kingfishers. Species such as the Little Tern and Little Ringed Plover find their perfect natural breeding grounds on the islands which have formed in the river.

Link to the picture gallery “Croatia's Amazon” on youtube 
        

Picture gallery “Croatia's Amazon” on youtube

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Short film “Wading in to protect the European Amazon” on euronews.net

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Primordial European landscape is threatened

With the disappearance of the Iron Curtain and the resulting political changes in Europe the situation changed abruptly. Areas that no-one had been allowed to tread on for forty years were now accessible to everyone and available for use – in many cases  with negative consequences for  nature.

Since the opening of the political border in the 1990s some side branches of the river, riparian forests and gravel banks have been considerably damaged by gravel extraction and channelization projects. The greatest danger,however, threatens the remaining natural reaches of the rivers through the construction of power stations. Above all on the Croatian side plans keep appearing to set up major hydro-electric power stations along the Drava.

The short film “ Wading in to protect the European Amazon” gives a vivid description of the dangers threatening the unique riverscape  from these water engineering projects.

View at “Wading in to protect the European Amazon” on  euronews.net


EuroNatur has been campaigning to save the unique river landscape of the Drava and the Mura ever since 1990. In joint efforts with our partners we have been able to prevent radical destructive engineering projects. However a lot of hard work is still needed to secure a lasting  protection of the living river system of Drava and Mura.



What measures  is EuroNatur taking for the protection of Drava and Mura?

  • To preserve the natural landscape of the Drava and Mura, which is important in Central Europe as a place for birds to rest and breed EuroNatur is campaigning with its partner organisations to realize a 5-country Biosphere Reserve between Croatia, Serbia,Austria and Hungary. To gain more information on this click here.
  • We work together with our partners for the intensive lobbying needed in the countries mentioned and at EU level to prevent the building of hydroelectric power stations on the Drava and Mura and stop gravel extraction.
  • EuroNatur supports its partners on site in regular monitoring and surveillance of the ecologically sensitive areas to prevent bird hunting  and infringements of  Conservation laws.
  • We also support our partners in the organisation of conferences and workshops in which nature conservationists and decision makers can exchange views on measures for the protection of this unique river landscape.



What has EuroNatur been able to achieve so far? - a selection of our successes

  • In 2009 EuroNatur and its partner organisations came an important step closer to the goal of realizing a 5-country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube". For further information please click here.
  • On a number of occasions we were able to prevent the building of hydro-electric power plants by speaking up in public with reasoned criticism and carrying out protests. One example was in 2007 in the case of the power station Novo Virje in croatia. After years of persistent protests by EuroNatur  and other nature conservation agencies the Croatian government finally dropped the plan from their land development programme.
  • In the same way we have been able to stop damaging impacts caused by gravel extraction.
  • With the financial support of  Eeconet Action Fund (EAF) we were able to secure  ecologically valuable core zones in the Danube-Drava National Park by buying land.
  • In a joint project with our partners we have completed a breeding bird map and analysed streamflow charateristics and  river structure of the Drava and Mura.


Partners: WWF Austria, Drava Liga (Union of local nature conservation organisations), BirdLife Slovenia

Sponsors: EuroNatur donors and sponsors, Eeconet-Action Fund (EAF), MAVA Foundation, BBI-Matra (formerly PIN-Matra) programme, German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature conservation and Reactor security (BMU)



>>> Read more about the EuroNatur project to realize an 5-Country-Biosphere Reserve between Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria and  Hungary

 


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