Mura, Drava, Danube Rivers Submitted to UNESCO as World's First Five Country Biosphere Reserve

By 2 October 2019

October 2, 2019 - Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia have joined forces to make the Mura, Drava, and Danube rivers the world’s first five-country biosphere reserve.

HRTurizam reports that the joint nomination of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia, sent to UNESCO on September 30, is the final step to proclaiming the Mura-Drava-Danube the world’s first five-country biosphere reserve. UNESCO certification is expected in June 2020.

The Mura, Drava, and Danube rivers, which flow through five countries, form a 700 km long green belt and connect over 930,000 hectares of unique area with significant natural and cultural heritage, creating the so-called European Amazon.

“This cross-border nomination is a strong indicator of strengthening regional cooperation and unifying countries with the unique objective of protecting nature. Working on a joint nomination is a great example of interstate cooperation on such an important issue,” said Petra Remeta, Director of WWF Adria's Nature Conservation Program.

The core and impact area of the biosphere reserve extends to 280,000 hectares and includes 13 protected areas and is surrounded by 650,000 hectares of the transition area. Rare flooded forests, sand and gravel shoals, river islands and backwaters form a unique river and cultural landscape. Also, Europe's Amazon is home to Europe's largest population of white-tailed eagles, as well as other endangered species such as small terns, black storks, otters, beavers, and sturgeons. It is also an important area for more than 250,000 migratory birds.

Not only is it home to numerous plant and animal species, but nearly 900,000 people depend on the Mura, Drava, and the Danube. Floodplains protect the settlements from flooding and secure drinking water supply, while exceptional river landscapes increase the potential for sustainable tourism.

"The designation of a biosphere reserve is an important departure from harmful projects such as the construction of new hydropower plants or the extraction of sediment. Sustainable coexistence of humans and nature is the direction we must go if we are to mitigate the inevitable consequences of climate change, which we are already feeling,” said Ivana Korn Varga of WWF Adria.

The Five-Country Biosphere Reserve project is valued at 14 million euros, is co-financed by the European Union, and contributes to the protection of nature and the development of the whole area. Thus, as part of the coop MDD initiative, the cooperation of protected areas in all five countries was established with a view to cross-border management, while the focus of the European Amazon Bike Trail project develops a sustainable cycling tourism model. On the other hand, concrete river revitalization measures are being implemented through different projects to create new habitats and recreational zones along the rivers.

The joint nomination is the result of the work of the Ministries and Public Institutions for Nature Conservation of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, the UNESCO Human and Biosphere Commissions, as well as the efforts of WWF, EuroNatur and many other nature protection organizations in all five countries.

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