Partnership between WWF and Coca-Cola launched to restore vital wetlands and floodplains along the Danube River. The ambitious project aims to increase the river capacity by the equivalent of 4,800 Olympic sized swimming pools (12 million m³) and to restore over 7,422 football pitches worth of wetland habitat (53 km²) by 2020. $4.4 million grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation to fund restoration in six countries (Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria) over seven years.
In Austria, the project aims to restore the last soda lakes, a unique habitat next to the Neusiedler See and close to Coca-Cola’s Edelstal production facility. These last lakes – with their milky-white waters – are threatened by poor drainage channels and consequently by lower ground water levels, which result in an interruption of salt transport from the groundwater to the soil surface. The aim of the project is to close drainage ditches and thus raise the groundwater table to former levels, which leads to bringing back to nature of 650,000 to 1,000,000 m3 of water. The activities will also benefit local tourism which is dependent on the abundance of flora – mainly birds – around the salt habitats, as well as agriculture which also suffers from the current low ground water level.
In Bulgaria, the projects will focus on the Lower Danube Green Corridor, the location for one of Europe’s most ambitious wetland protection and restoration initiatives. The aim is to restore over 30km² of river habitats that are home to six threatened and endangered fish species by removing migration obstacles and building a fish pass. This restoration work, along with targeted conservation activities for these species (such as restocking) will help improve the river’s conservation status. In addition, another wetland restoration project in Bulgaria will enhance the natural condition of the river ecosystem, encourage sustainable land use and provide space for rare and threatened species.
In Croatia, the project will focus on restoration activities along the Drava River, which is part of the future five-country Mura-Drava-Danube Trans-Boundary Biosphere Reserve, sometimes referred to as “Europe’s Amazon”, as it stretches from Austria, across Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia and onto Serbia. The aim is to restore or recreate five sidearms that will improve natural river dynamics and habitats, flood risk mitigation, ecotourism and recreation. In addition, restoration work will be conducted on the Barcs-Old-Drava oxbow, a natural riverside lake on the left side of the Drava River.
Led out of Hungary, this transboundary restoration work will demonstrate a relatively simple and cost effective way of improving the ecological status of the wetlands and surrounding forests, so as to develop ecotourism.
In Hungary, the project will focus on restoration work along the Barcs-Old-Drava former meander, in cooperation with Croatia. The area is part of the future five-country Mura-Drava-Danube Trans-Boundary Biosphere Reserve, sometimes referred to as “Europe’s Amazon”, as it stretches from Austria, across Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia and onto Serbia. The aim is restore the Barcs-Old-Drava oxbow, which is a natural riverside lake on the left side of the Drava River. This transboundary restoration work will demonstrate a relatively simple and cost effective way of improving the ecological status of the wetlands and surrounding forests, so as to develop ecotourism. In addition, similar wetland restoration projects in Hungary will enhance sustainable land use and provide space for rare and threatened species.
In Romania, the projects will focus on restoration work at the Garla Mare Fish Farm along the Lower Danube Green Corridor, the location for one of Europe’s most ambitious wetland protection and restoration initiatives. The aim is to connect the transformed wetlands to the natural flood pulse of the River Danube. This will not only produce ecological benefits, but will improve the river’s retention capacity in the event of future flooding. It will also provide ground for sustainable land use such as grazing or bee keeping.
In Serbia, the project will focus on restoration work on the Bestrement oxbow, situated in the Special Nature Reserve “Gornje Podunavlje”. This lies on the Danube floodplain, but is disconnected from the river by dykes and almost totally overgrown by reeds and willows that are closing the open water.
In the past the area was a very important breeding site and migration stop-over for up to 700 pairs of heron, but it has vanished as a result of drying and lack of feeding sites. The aim is to improve the water regime throughout the year using existing irrigation canals by construction of a sluice.
Restoration will strengthen the Mura-Drava-Danube Transboundary Biosphere Reserve initiative.
Since 2007, The Coca-Cola Company and WWF have worked together to conserve and protect freshwater resources around the world while helping to improve the efficiency of Coca-Cola’s global operations. To date, the partnership has led to major conservation gains, including helping to improve the ecological health of seven of the world’s most important freshwater basins across five continents, helping improve the Coca-Cola system’s water efficiency by 20 percent, working to prevent 5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions across Coca-Cola’s global manufacturing operations, and promoting more sustainable agricultural practices in the company’s supply chain.
Editing: Zlatko Zlatković
Camera: Silard Kovač (Footage from Serbia)
Graphic design: Zlatko Zlatković