Knjiga "Drava jučer, danas, sutra"

Presentation of the book and the video about Drava

As part of the celebration of the Day of the Municipality of Đelekovec, a presentation was held for the book and video by Goran Šafarek, created within the DRAVA LIFE project.

After Đelekovec was declared the First Sand Martin Village earlier in the day, the presentation of the book “Drava Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” was held in the afternoon at the Đelekovec Fire Station. For the first time, the video “DRAVA LIFE – New Life for the Drava,” which showcases the activities of the long-term unique project to revitalize the Drava River, was screened.

Thank you to all the residents of Đelekovec and the surrounding area who attended. Special thanks for the interesting discussion and emotional impressions of what the Drava means to you and life by the river, with all its beauties as well as the threats that come with living by the river.

10.6.2024. Đelekovec, @Marko Horvat

Photos Marko Horvat

Lara Samošćanec i Jasna Puhar

Đelekovec has been declared the first sand martin village

Đelekovec, June 10, 2024 – The village of Đelekovec has been declared the first sand martin village in Croatia. Within the same municipality is a steep riverbank on the Drava River called Libanovec, which serves as a home and favorite nesting site for one of the largest colonies of these strictly protected bird species. This recognition highlights the importance of preserving natural habitats and the successful collaboration between the local community, farmers, and ecological experts.

Jasmin Sadiković, Zeleni Osijek

Jasna Puhar

Igor Tošić


The sand martin (Riparia riparia) is a small migratory bird that nests in colonies on steep, sandy riverbanks. Its presence is a significant indicator of the health of river ecosystems. About 70% of the Croatian sand martin population nests along the Croatian-Hungarian border, with the Libanovec bank being a crucial habitat for this species.

Sustainable Management and Nature Conservation

The steep riverbank at Libanovec was formed in the 1980s due to significant changes at the mouth of the Mura into the Drava. The municipality of Đelekovec sought to protect the agricultural land along the bank. Various options were considered, and a solution was reached that satisfied all parties involved – water management, nature conservation, the Municipality of Đelekovec, and farmers. The land was leased to the owner of the Puhar family farm. The municipality and Mrs. Puhar will sign an annex to the contract allowing erosion of the agricultural land, which will reduce the rental price. This initiative represents a successful example of cooperation between the local community, farmers, and ecological experts in preserving biodiversity and improving the quality of life.

“Instead of environmentally less acceptable bank reinforcements, so-called cross groins were constructed,” explained Igor Tošić from Hrvatske vode. “An integrated water management approach allowed us to protect this valuable natural habitat, thereby also protecting the area along the bank from erosion.”

“We are proud to declare Đelekovec as the first sand martin village in Croatia today,” said the mayor of the Municipality of Đelekovec, Lara Samošćanec. “I am glad that we will protect the sand martins so that our land remains their favorite summer destination and so that our residents and visitors can continue to enjoy them.”

“We farmers live from and with nature, so we care about preserving it for future generations. We are pleased that we reached a satisfactory agreement with the Municipality and the partners of the DRAVA LIFE project and that we continue to cultivate the land in harmony with these beautiful birds. We hope that this activity will enable their numbers to increase in the future,” said Jasna Puhar (Puhar Family Farm).

The sand martin, a small migratory bird from the swallow family, nests in colonies along sandy riverbanks. It serves as a crucial indicator of river ecosystem health. In your municipality, the steep banks of Libanovec are a vital habitat and breeding ground for one of Croatia’s largest sand martin colonies. Nearly 70% of Croatia’s sand martin population resides near the Croatian-Hungarian border. Globally, this species is declining, making the preservation of the Libanovec coast and its avian visitors critically important.

“We are proud to have protected the steep bank in Libanovec as part of the DRAVALIFE project. This colony has hosted over 1,000 breeding pairs of sand martins in some years”, said Tanja Nikowitz from WWF Austria. 

“At the project’s outset, we explored various ways to protect the steep bank while also addressing the needs for farmland and water protection. Our collaborative solution integrates water management and nature conservation to safeguard the land behind the steep bank. The farmland, already publicly owned and managed by the municipality of Đelekovec, is leased to Mrs. Puhar, a dedicated farmer. Both parties were committed to preserving the sand martin colony for the future. Consequently, they will sign an agreement allowing for farmland erosion, with reduced rent for the farmer. This initiative by the municipality of Đelekovec and Mrs. Puhar is exemplary, not only in Croatia but beyond.”

“Several other endangered and valuable steep banks along the Drava River require similar protection. Natural contractual measures like those in Libanovec, or land purchases, are essential for conserving these habitats and their avian residents. Ensuring the security of the land behind these banks is crucial for effective water management and erosion control. Such integrated river management efforts necessitate joint forces”, concluded Nikowitz.

“This is an exceptional recognition for Đelekovec and the entire Koprivnica-Križevci County. The natural areas of the County, renowned for their beauty and exceptional value for the preservation of biodiversity, are protected as part of the Natura 2000 areas, the Mura-Drava Regional Park, and are part of UNESCO Five-Country Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube”, said Željka Kolar, Director of the Public Institution for the Management of Protected Natural Areas in the Koprivnica-Križevci County. 

little terns

Don’t Disturb the Little Tern – Ambassador of the Living Drava

May 17, 2024 – An educational workshop was held at the premises of the Public Institution for the Management of Protected Natural Areas in the Koprivnica-Križevci County. The workshop gathered nature enthusiasts and regular visitors to the riverbanks. The workshop’s focus was to raise awareness about the sensitivity of the Little Tern’s habitat, and other birds that nest on gravel banks, during the breeding season.

The Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) is one of the rarest breeding birds in Croatia. Its body is slender with narrow wings and a forked tail, perfectly adapted for hunting fish in rivers and seas. The chicks are gray-brown-yellow, perfectly suited for nesting in habitats of gravel and sandy islands, as well as vegetation-free banks and islands. In Croatia, it nests only on the Drava River in the Koprivnica-Križevci County (with an average of 4-7 breeding pairs), while the rest of our population lives by the sea.

This strictly protected species is threatened by river regulation and hydropower plants, gravel and sand extraction, and human disturbances such as rowing, fishing, swimming, and similar activities. The presence of the Little Tern is an indicator of dynamic parts of the river flow with sandy and gravel banks, steep shores, and backwaters that are also home to other endangered river bird species dependent on dynamic habitats, such as the Sand Martin, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, and others. Therefore, the Little Tern has become a symbol of the Drava River and the Mura-Drava-Danube Five-country Biosphere Reserve. Unlike the Common Tern, the Little Tern refuses to nest on artificial platforms and is exclusively tied to the natural river.

To preserve the last breeding pairs of the Little Tern, it is necessary to restore the river’s dynamics and allow the Drava to create new gravel and sandy banks, as well as prevent disturbances to the birds during the nesting season. This is one of the main goals of the DRAVA LIFE project.

Participants received information on responsible practices to minimize disturbances to these protected bird species during the crucial breeding period, emphasizing the need to avoid using gravel banks from April to July to increase the population and ensure these birds become common neighbors on the Drava River again. Željka Kolar, director of the Public Institution, highlighted the importance of protecting the Drava River and provided an overview of the protected areas and species found within the County, emphasizing the Mura-Drava Regional Park, which is part of the Natura 2000 area important for the conservation of birds, species, and habitat types, and part of the Mura-Drava-Danube Five-Country Biosphere Reserve.

“Workshops like this serve as key tools in fostering shared responsibility for the protection of the unique ecosystems of the Drava River and ensuring the continuous well-being of its diverse plant and animal life,” said Ms. Kolar. “This initiative represents a step towards nature conservation and creating harmony between humans and wildlife, inviting everyone to join in protecting the unique habitats and species of our environment.”




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Public Presentations of DRAVA LIFE Project Results in Donja Dubrava and Gola

Representatives of the Association for Nature and Environment Protection Green Osijek and the Croatian Waters presented progress on the DRAVA LIFE project on Thursday, April 11th, in Donja Dubrava, and on Friday, April 12th, in Gola.

They showcased what has been achieved so far as part of the project, which represents an innovative approach to river management aimed at creating examples of best practices in Croatia and the region. The project aims to improve the ecosystems of the Drava River through activities to restore the river in collaboration with relevant authorities and non-governmental organizations. Restoration activities are of exceptional importance for endangered habitats and species in Natura 2000 areas, as well as for flood protection in inhabited areas along the Drava River, and for increasing recreational value for the local population.

The presentations resulted in an open discussion about nature protection, and the restoration of river habitats in the municipalities of Donja Dubrava and Gola. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Donja Dubrava
Donja Dubrava

Restored branches near Donja Dubrava, Legrad, and Gola were opened

Donja Dubrava, March 14, 2024 – Activities for the restoration of Drava River branches within the project “DRAVA LIFE – Integrated River Management” have been completed in the areas of the municipalities Donja Dubrava, Legrad (rkm 238.2-241.4), and Gola (rkm 215-217). With the increase in water levels, the restored branches have become flowing again.

Through the opening and creation of new branches, the removal and adaptation of riverbanks and other water structures, as well as the preservation of floodplains and natural steep riverbanks, key natural features of the Drava River ecosystem, one of the last remaining natural European rivers, are restored. Sediments and barriers were removed from existing branch channel routes, ecological ponds and deep pools were constructed, and gabion barriers and transition ramps were reconstructed at several locations.

After the restoration works, which began at the end of September 2023, the left bank branch near Donja Dubrava will be 1.56 km long, and the right bank branch will be 1.88 km long,” explained Igor Tošić, the project manager from the Croatian Waters. Both branches, which were overgrown and silted before the restoration works, will relieve pressure on existing water structures downstream, especially during flood events, by opening and diverting new inflow from the main river channel, thus protecting embankments and nearby settlements. This will reduce the need for repairs and construction of regulatory structures along those sections of the Drava, and specifically, with the restoration of the left bank branch in Donja Dubrava, it will increase embankment safety for flood protection.

Foto: Goran Šafarek

Additionally, in the left bank inundation from stations rkm 215+000 to 217+000 in the municipality of Gola, near the village of Novačka, works have been completed to open the first 100 meters of an existing non-flowing branch, approximately 1.3 km long.

Drava is known for its highest biological diversity of fish in Croatia and colonies of river birds.

The habitats on the Drava include some of the most endangered in Europe, such as floodplain forests, wet meadows, gravel bars and sandy shores, branches, steep banks, dead arms, standing branches, abandoned channels, and meanders. Due to various adverse effects, with climate change leading the way, there are changes in hydrological conditions, often causing degradation and disappearance of these habitats, making them increasingly endangered, with their area reduced,” explained Željka Kolar, director of the Public Institution for the Management of Protected Nature Areas in the Koprivnica-Križevci County.

Sand martins and king fishers

In addition to the positive effects on flood defense and Drava’s hydromorphology, branch restoration activities will significantly contribute to increasing biodiversity. New river habitats will intensify along the banks, and new habitats for spawning, feeding, and resting of fish and amphibians will be created within the branches themselves. Drava is known for its highest biological diversity of fish in Croatia. Out of 70 recorded species, five are endemic to the Danube basin: Danube salmon (Hucho hucho), bleak (Rutilus pigus), monkey goby (Gymnocephalus baloni), racer goby (Gymnocephalus schraetser), and streber (Zingel streber)). Out of 70 recorded species, 38 are included in the Red Book of Freshwater Fish of Croatia. Positive effects will also extend to birds nesting on gravel and sandy bars and steep banks, such as the sand martin (Riparia riparia) and the kingfisher (Alcedo atthis).

After the recently opened new branch near Gabajeva Grede and the completion of works in the municipalities of Donja Dubrava, Legrad, and Gola, preparatory work for the branch near the Botovo bridge will continue until the end of March, followed by a break until September to prevent disturbance to river birds, such as sand martins (Riparia riparia), European bee-eaters (Merops apiaster), and kingfishers (Alcedo atthis) during the breeding season.

Intensive educational activities will be carried out during these months. Besides the restoration of the Drava River ecosystem, education on nature protection and Natura 2000 areas in local communities is an important part of the DRAVA LIFE project to increase awareness of the importance of natural and preserved rivers for humans and living beings dependent on them and to prevent human disturbance of birds during the breeding season through recreational activities such as fishing, paddling, and swimming.

In September, restoration works on the Drava will continue at the remaining planned locations in Varaždin and Virovitica-Podravina counties.


Božica Trnski

Community Gathering in Hlebine


At the Social Center in Hlebine on Thursday, March 7th, a presentation of the project “DRAVA LIFE – Integrated River Management” was held. The local population was presented with the achieved results so far, as well as the announced plans and activities for the upcoming period.


The Mayor of the municipality, Božica Trnski, received the book “Drava Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” by author Goran Šafarek. The book, made within the framework of the DRAVA LIFE project, summarizes the most relevant data about the river and illustrates them with beautiful pictures. It provides information on the physical characteristics of the river, its social and cultural importance, species and habitats, threats, and the future of this river landscape, taking into account the restoration projects currently underway on the Drava River. We thank everyone who attended!

This year ahead of us is full of activities, both in the field and in the municipalities and places covered by the DRAVA LIFE project. If you wish to receive our news, we invite you to subscribe to the newsletter on the homepage of our website.

Gabajeva Greda, Goran Šafarek

An initial channel of the Drava River has been opened

In the area of the municipality of Hlebine, near the settlement of Gabajeva Greda, an initial channel of the Drava River has been opened, and other works in Koprivnica-Križevci County, carried out as part of the project “DRAVA LIFE – Integrated River Management,”  have been presented to the public.

“We are pleased to show you the newly formed river arm on the right bank of the Drava after intensive work that began earlier this year,” said Ana Šelimber, Deputy Director of the Water Management Department for the Mura and Upper Drava from Hrvatske vode, explaining how the restoration and opening of new river arms like this one will contribute to local water level reduction during major floods and positively impact groundwater reserves.

Ratimir Ljubić, Deputy County Prefect of Koprivnica-Križevci County, recalled the critical flood situation in August last year. He emphasized that besides relieving the watercourse, this river arm will bring additional value to the Drava River while ensuring the preservation of biodiversity of flora and fauna, thus adding extra value. The mayor of the Municipality of Gola, Stjepan Milinković added that the Drava River is the lifeline of this area.

Project leader Igor Tošić (Hrvatske vode) explained, “We are currently at the initial right arm in Gabajeva Greda, which will, after the works, have a total length of 1,196 meters and a channel width of up to 27 meters. After several passes of water waves, this initial arm will assume a more natural, balanced position. Currently, the works on the left bank near the settlement of Novačka are in the final phase, where excavation of approximately 100 meters will open the entrance of the existing arm, which is currently non-flowing, and has a length of around 1,200 meters. In addition to these locations, works are currently underway in the municipalities of Donja Dubrava, Legrad, and Ferdinandovac in Koprivnica-Križevci County for the restoration of Drava river arms. Upon completion of the works, all river arms will be flowing for most of the hydrological year.”

In addition to restoring the Drava River ecosystem, the project promotes nature conservation in local communities and increases awareness of the importance of its preservation.

“In collaboration with public nature protection institutions from Koprivnica-Križevci, Varaždin, and Virovitica-Podravina counties, by organizing various events, exhibitions, setting up educational infrastructure such as educational centers and trails with informational boards along the Drava River, we aim to connect the local population with the project and enhance awareness of the importance of natural and preserved rivers for humans and the living beings that depend on them, and to improve their knowledge of the Natura 2000 network, especially regarding protected river birds,” emphasized Jasmin Sadiković, project coordinator from the Association for Nature and Environment Protection Green Osijek.

The area of the DRAVA LIFE project is part of the first World Five-Country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube, known as the “European Amazon”, which is located in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia.

“I am happy that today we can witness the creation of a completely new arm of the Drava River and that intensive work is being done at other locations,” said Arno Mohl from WWF Austria. “Efforts to restore Novačka are the best example of integrated river management in cooperation between the water management and nature protection sectors. Instead of reinforcing embankments, more space for river flow is provided, which will help not only in flood protection but also increase river dynamics and enable the development of new sandy and gravel islands, which are the most important river habitats for endangered birds like the little tern or almost extinct plant German Tamarisk.

“River restoration projects as DRAVA LIFE are an important steps in implementing the Nature Restoration Law adopted by the European Parliament earlier this week, which requires member states like Croatia to restore all degraded ecosystems. Its implementation will reverse the damage inflicted on ecosystems in Europe. Untouched rivers, forests, and other ecosystems are our most important allies in combating the climate and biodiversity crises. Restoration within the Drava LIFE project is the first of its kind in Croatia, in collaboration between the water management and nature protection sectors, which has proven successful, so we expect even more ambitious initiatives in the future,” concluded Mohl.

Action to Reintroduce German Tamarisk to the Natural Habitats of the Drava River

At several locations along the Drava River in Varaždin County, organized by the Public Institution Nature of Varaždin County, a dozen river enthusiasts carried out another action to reintroduce  German tamarisk back into its former habitats.. This involves an attempt to repopulate river plants, specifically a renewed effort to introduce the strictly protected and critically endangered German tamarisk to the natural habitats of the Drava River.

This is a continuation of last year’s activities involving the translocation, or transplanting, of plants of this species from the gravel pit in Sračinec to the Drava river banks downstream of the Ormoško Lake. The uniqueness of this year’s action lies in the use of 30 young seedlings grown in the nursery of the Arboretum Opeka High School in Marčan, from cuttings of German tamarisk parent plants taken from the Turnišće gravel pit in Sračinec. According to available data, this location is one of only two in Croatia where German tamarisk still appears. Partners from the DRAVA LIFE project, supported by the botanist Dr. Dragica Purger, also participated in this year’s action.

German tamarisk (Myricaria germanica)

German tamarisk (Myricaria germanica) is a shrubby plant that was once common on the Drava river banks and gravel bars but is now almost completely extinct and considered a critically endangered species with a high risk of extinction. It is a plant adapted to the unique ecological conditions of habitats limited to newly formed gravel bars. Therefore, this species is one of the indicator species of healthy and natural rivers. Due to anthropogenic influences and changes in the morphodynamics of the river, German tamarisk has disappeared from its natural habitat in the Drava River in Croatia. It can only be found in secondary, anthropogenic habitats such as gravel pits and canals.

Previous attempts to plant or reintroduce German tamarisk to the natural habitats of the Drava River were made in 2018 and 2019 as part of the DRAVA LIFE project.  In 2022, due to the expansion of gravel exploitation works, about thirty individuals of this species were removed from the Turnišće gravel pit in Sračinec and relocated to the natural habitats along the Drava River downstream of the Ormoško Lake. During this activity, cuttings were taken from the parent plants for cultivation and propagation of this plant in controlled conditions to obtain seedlings for future planting or reintroduction of German tamarisk to the Drava River. As it is a strictly protected species of the Republic of Croatia, all activities obtained permission from the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development.

Although previous attempts to reintroduce German tamarisk to the natural habitats of the Drava River have not been successful, primarily due to factors related to changed habitat conditions and extreme weather events, we hope that this year’s planting has identified suitable micro-locations where Greman tamarisk will successfully grow.

This action, attempting to bring back disappearing native wild species into nature, also contributes to the restoration of degraded ecosystems. This aligns with the requirements of the recently agreed-upon nature Restoration Law which is expected to be adopted soon by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.

Will we succeed in bringing German tamarisk back to the natural habitats of the Drava River? We do not know. But we must try, because if we do not try, we will never find out.

Work commences on the first restoration location of the DRAVA LIFE Project!

Work has commenced on the first of six renovation locations as part of the DRAVA LIFE project

On the 17th of November, at the branch of the Drava River near Legrad, a public presentation marked the commencement of work on the first of six planned restoration sites under the DRAVA LIFE – Integrated River Management project. ’ After many years of preparation, the start of restoration at this location is a significant milestone in the implementation of the Project,’ said Mr. Milan Rezo, the director of the Water Management Department for Mura and Gornja Drava in Hrvatske vode.

The opening of a side arm to the Drava, with a total length of 1560 m and connected smaller arms, oxbows, and waters, is planned. This will be achieved through the deepening and removal of natural sediment deposits at the entrance of the side arm, which currently obstruct the water flow from the Drava into the system for most of the year. Additionally, there are plans to remove a 20 m-long traverse that crosses the sidearm. The excavated material will be stored a bit further downstream on the left riverbank, allowing it to be naturally eroded and washed away by the river.

“With the implementation of the DRAVA LIFE project, we are introducing new practices in water management and nature protection based on numerous experiences across Europe”, Milan Rezo, the director of the Water Management Department for Mura and Gornja Drava in Hrvatske vode, said. “These experiences have shown that the restoration of rivers and their floodplains is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to improve the state of the ecosystem and defend against floods. After many years of preparation, the start of work at this location is a significant milestone in the implementation of the Project.’

Speakers at the event included Igor Horvat, Vice-President of the Municipal Council of Legrad Municipality; Ratimir Ljubić, Deputy Prefect of Koprivnica-Križeva County; Milan Rezo, Director of the Water Management Department for Mura and Upper Drava (Hrvatske vode); Jasmin Sadiković from Zeleni Osijek; Željka Kolar, Director of the Public Institution for the Management of Protected Nature Areas in Koprivnica-Križevci County; and Tanja Nikowitz from WWF Austria.

With the restoration of the Drava River, the area will gain attractive landscapes and biological sites, serving as a new resource for the development of ecological tourism and educational activities. Jasmin Sadiković, the project coordinator from the association Zeleni Osijek, highlighted the importance of learning about applied restoration measures, river habitats, and endangered species. He emphasized that this knowledge will enhance the understanding of the need for protection and coexistence of local communities with the ecosystem of the river Drava, while presenting the project’s achievements so far and plans for the next period.

According to Željka Kolar, the director of the JU for the Management of Protected Areas of Nature in Koprivnica-Križevačka County, “Renovation activities will be of great importance for the preservation of target species and habitat types in the Natura 2000 areas covered by the project.”

Tanja Nikowitz from WWF Austria emphasized the broader context, stating, “The recently agreed Regulation on the Restoration of Nature, which should soon be adopted by the EU Council and Parliament, urges member states like Croatia to restore degraded ecosystems. River restoration projects like the DRAVA LIFE project are an important step in the implementation of this new Regulation and the joining of forces against climate change and the loss of biodiversity.” She added, “The area of the DRAVA LIFE project is included in the world’s first Five-country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube, known as the ‘Amazon of Europe.’ This extraordinary initiative embodies the joint commitment of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia, demonstrating that conservation knows no borders.”

Igor Tošić, the project manager from Hrvatske vode, presented the upcoming plans and led participants to the side-branch, where the work was ceremonially started by burying shovels.

A sincere gratitude to everyone who joined us, making this day truly special! Your presence and support mean the world to us.


About a hundred students and their teachers participated in the activities of the “DRAVA LIFE” project in the area where the Mura meets the Drava

On October 27, 2023, representatives from the association Zeleni Osijek, alongside members of the Public Institution for Management of Protected Natural Areas in Koprivnica-Križevci County, conducted educational activities as part of the DRAVA LIFE project. The event took place at the confluence of the Mura and Drava rivers in Legrad.

These activities were carried out in collaboration with students from Andrija Palmović Primary School in Rasinja. Approximately a hundred students and 15 teachers actively participated in the educational programs, which featured specially designed worksheets created within the framework of DRAVA LIFE for Schools in Nature, Excursions, and Action Days. On the same day, an action-focused event centered on the removal of invasive species was held. Alongside a presentation on invasive species, students and professors had the opportunity to engage in hands-on removal of Amorpha fruticosa along the educational trail in Legrad.