Drava-Mura confluence will remain unspoilt

Copyright WWF

A highly controversial river regulation project that would have turned the Drava-Mura confluence on the Hungarian-Croatian border into little more than a lifeless canal, has been rejected by the Croatian Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection.

This important step comes after four years of campaigning against the project by WWF, EuroNatur and the Drava League. The demise of the project would in effect protect the core zone of the recently designatedCroatian-Hungarian part of the future 5-country UNESCO Biosphere reserve “Mura-Drava-Danube”. 

The Mura-Drava confluence has some of Europe’s best preserved wetlands and is home to endangered species such as the White-tailed eagle, Black stork and Otter. All species rely on the natural shifting of the riverbeds as well as on habitats such as floodplain forests, sand and gravel banks.

In October, a comprehensive monitoring report issued by the European Commission on Croatia’s state of preparedness for EU membership detected significant gaps in the implementation of EU environmental law. In particular, the report criticized the insufficient quality of Environmental Impact Assessment studies (EIAs) and found that they were not in line with EU standards. 

WWF, EuroNatur and Croatian NGOs had repeatedly warned that more than 500 kilometres of Croatia’s natural rivers are at risk of being turned into canals. They had argued that the EIA’s did not assess the projects’ environmental impact properly and the projects contradicted EU law. Nevertheless, five out of seven projects had already gained approval by the Croatian Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection. 

Still pending a decision is the regulation of 53 kilometres of the Danube River in the transboundary area of Croatia and Serbia. 

“The ministerial decision against the destruction of the Drava-Mura confluence is an important signal for the better protection of unique natural areas in Croatia”, said Arno Mohl, International Freshwater Officer at WWF. “We trust that Minister Zmajlović will now also stop the rest of the projects”. 

Croatia’s unique rivers provide free ecosystem services like flood protection, water purification and climate change mitigation and, hence, are of extreme importance for the wellbeing of people. Straightening and channelling the natural river would massively harm the already vulnerable river landscapes and lead to irreversible loss of nature and wildlife.

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