It’s great to hear a green success story when so much of the news around the world is grim about the health of Earth’s water and wetlands. An ambitious wetland protection and restoration program for Europe’s Lower Danube River is just such good news- the project to create a “green corridor” along the entire length of the Lower Danube is ahead of targets. The Lower Danube Green Corridor Declaration was signed in 2000 by environment ministers from Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Moldova. Overall, the Declaration planned to increase protection for 775,000 hectares of existing protected areas and protect an additional 160,000 hectares. And it’s working.
“Wetlands protection and restoration is the key to a healthy river able to better deal with both droughts and floods. Wetlands are not only cheap to maintain, but also save money and this is why we are taking steps not only to protect what remains, but actually to regain at least some of what has disappeared.” — said Andreas Beckman, Director of WWF’s Danube-Carpathian Programme
The last 1,000 kilometers (the Lower Corridor) of the Danube, from a dam in Serbia to the Black Sea, is one of the last free-flowing sections of river in Europe. 29 million people and over 5,000 species live in the Lower Danube River basin, and the corridor is Europe’s largest remaining natural wetland area. 1.4 million hectares of the Lower Danube Corridor are now under protection. The World Wildlife Foundation estimates the value of benefits from Danube floodplains to be at least €500/ hectare/ year.
The ten-year anniversary of the Declaration coincided with a larger ministerial meeting of all fourteen countries that share the river to create a 5 year management plan for the Danube. Overall, 80% of the Danube’s original floodplains and wetland areas have been lost to agriculture, industry, flood prevention or navigation-based changes.
“The Lower Danube Green Corridor was and still is the most ambitious wetland protection and restoration initiative in Europe. We are looking forward to more ambitious targets for the next phase of developing the green corridor – and hopefully to celebrating again that the river is better protected than we had expected.” – Andreas Beckman