Groundbreaking approval: DANUBEPARKS will coordinate the new Regional Ramsar Initiative
June 21, 2024 | News

Groundbreaking approval: DANUBEPARKS will coordinate the new Regional Ramsar Initiative

The 63rd meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on Wetlands has approved the establishment of the Danube WILDisland Ramsar Regional Initiative as its 22nd world Ramsar Regional Initiative and the first river-based RRI in Europe.

The approval was announced by Musonda Mumba, Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands with a video message at the Danube Party organized within the 13th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region on 20 June 2024, in Vienna, Austria.

The Austrian focal point of the Convention on Wetlands, Gerhard Bachner handed over the documents to Birgit Vogel, Executive Secretary of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), Vlatko Rožac, President of DANUBEPARKS, Matej Marušić (DANUBEPARKS), Elena Kmetova-Biro, coordinator of the LIFE WILDisland project and Stefan Schneeweihs (Donau-Auen National Park, Austria).

Vlatko Rožac, President of DANUBEPARKS, says:

“RRI Wildisland is a large milestone and step up for the DANUBEPARKS Network. This initiative represents a commitment of all contracting parties of the Ramsar Convention on the Danube River, that they will improve efforts for wetland conservation in the Danube River Basin. As it is hosted by ICPDR and will be coordinated by DANUBEPARKS, it is based on past and future cooperation between stakeholders in the Danube Macro region. This initiative also represents a global recognition of our work on ecological connectivity by the Ramsar Convention itself. Moreover, the Ramsar Convention will support us in improving our capacity, which will open a new opportunity to mobilize additional resources for our mission of conservation and promotion of the Danube's natural and cultural heritage.”

This is the rewarding result of many years of work, as also noted by Gerhard Bachner, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management, Austria and focal point of the Ramsar Convention:

“The discussions and planning that began in May 2019 - 5 years ago - with representatives of the Donau-Auen National Park on the "Wild Island" concept, which from the outset aimed to link the EU-funded LIFE project with the development and implementation of a separate Ramsar Regional Initiative for the entire Danube region, have finally paid off.”

ICPDR Executive Secretary Birgit Vogel states:

“We proudly take on the role of formal host and Non-Country Member of the Danube WILDisland Ramsar Regional Initiative. This aligns perfectly with the ICPDR's long-term goals and objectives, which are rooted in our three pillars: cleaner, healthier, and safer waters. The initiative not only supports our mission but also integrates seamlessly with our updated River Basin Management Plans, particularly in the reconnection of wetlands and flood plains. This moment is especially symbolic as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Danube River Protection Convention, the solid foundation upon which our institution is built. We look forward to continuing our work to protect and enhance the Danube River Basin.”

The celebrations continued to 21 June 2024 with a boat trip of nearly 50 of the EUSDR Forum participants. Guided by National Park Rangers and the local WILDisland project staff, they visited some of the most precious revitalized WILDislands of the Donau-Auen National Park, Austria.

The new Danube WILDisland RRI (Ramsar Regional Initiative) is established under the patronage of ICPDR and will be coordinated by the DANUBEPARKS, which unites 20 Protected Areas from 9 Danube countries, working together to improve the consistency of nature protection activities and strengthening the voice of its members on a European level. The Initiative will be managed through a newly established Lower Danube Office hosted by Persina Nature Park, Bulgaria.

This practically means more possibilities for Danube-wide and cross-sector cooperation, joint restoration projects and coordinated efforts to preserve, develop and restore the Danube River, its natural islands and adjacent floodplains and to ensure adaptive management and wise-use of wetlands, based on transfer of knowledge and expertise of all participating countries. Furthermore, the whole establishment process guarantees bottom-up approach which will consider the individual needs and conditions of each of the member countries, while using the experience and know-how of the others.

The Initiative was developed within the big international LIFE WILDisland project, which managed to obtain the active support of 10 Danube countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine).

The DANUBEPARKS family, together with the WILDisland team is looking forward to the future opportunities and the joint work for the Danube WILDisland Habitat Corridor!