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

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.


DRAVA LIFE project teamBirgit Egger
DRAVA LIFE project team

Excursion to Allier and Loire Rivers in France

Finally, after 2 years of the pandemic, in July of 2022, the DRAVA LIFE team could visit one of the wildest and most impressive rivers in Western Europe: river Allier, a tributary to river Loire, in France. Thanks to an early initiative of restoration actions starting in the 1980ies, including dam prevention and removal plus land purchase, river Allier has a model reference character for similar rivers in Europe due to its natural condition. River Allier nowadays is largely protected as Natura 2000 sites and partly as “Réserve Naturelle Val d Állier”. The river is 421 kilometres long. It has its source in the Cevennes mountains 50 kilometres east of Mende and flows 5 km west of Nevers into the Loire river.

View on Allier from the steep bank in Chemilly

View on Allier from the steep bank in Chemilly (c) WWF

14 persons of the DRAVALIFE team plus four other interested colleagues went on this trip from Austria and Croatia to Le Veurdre in France. A majority of the group went by night-train and connecting trains from Vienna and Zagreb via Zurich until Le Veurdre in France. The small, charming village is based just on the shore of river Allier. It was the perfect place to stay for our river expeditions.

The DRAVALIFE team went all this way to France in order to see and learn from river Allier. The excursion consisted of several stages. Dr. Gregory Egger, ecologist and professor for landscape ecology at the Karlsruher Institute for Technology (KIT), introduced the team to the special situation on river Allier. During an excursion to Allier and its floodplains close to Chemilly we learned about the natural development of different floodplain habitats. In several scientific studies over the past years the succession processes of the vegetation and the long-term riverine development have been documented. Especially the development of the black-poplar (Populus nigra) floodplains, the xerothermic grasslands as well as the invasive neophytes Fallopia japonica were highlighted during the excursion.

Excursion in Chemilly_Explanations of Gregory Egger(c)Birgit Egger

Excursion in Chemilly_Explanations of Gregory Egger (c) Birgit Egger

Furthermore the history of “Le Grand Plan – Plan Loire Grande Nature” (The Big Nature Plan for the Loire catchment) which enabled the development of the “Espace de Liberté”, a concept that gives space to the river through land purchase and law regulation, was introduced by Gregory Egger. The historical happenings that made this major plan possible was presented by Mr. Roberto Epple, President “European rivers network” ERN and part of the “river freedom fighters” at this time. In the 1980ies the river development (hence flood protection, irrigation, etc.)  was planned on the Loire river catchment. Against this “the Comité Loire Vivante” was formed which resulted in the concept of “Espace de Liberté” instead of further ”river development”. Later on the NGO “Allier sauvage” has been founded in order to protect river Allier which was presented to the team by its president Mr. Joel Herbach. Today even the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is again migrating up Loire and Allier.

Roberto Epple and Joel Herbach presenting (c) WWF

The second stage of the excursion was a canoe excursion supported by a canoe rental company (Canoë en Terre d’Allier, Base du Veurdre) on river Allier which started from Moulins to the medieval village of Apremont-sur-Allier. Canoeing and swimming down 55 kilometres of the river gave the best impression of the intact riverine ecosystem: natural steep banks, vast gravel and sand islands, a rich diversity of waterfowls, bordering meadows with cows drinking from the river, and a lot of space for the river. Sometimes, the team could not believe that such a riverine paradise over such a long stretch is still possible in the middle of Europe.


Canoeing (c) WWF

On the last day the confluence of Allier and Loire river close to Bec d´Allier was visited before heading to Paris to catch the night trains back home. Definitely, the concept of river restoration through land purchase and strict regulations for riverine space plus dam prevention and removal is a lesson learned that the DRAVALIFE team took home to river Drava and our restoration efforts.

Sand martin colony in a steep bank

Sand martin colony in a steep bank (c) WWF


Cattle herd drinking at the river

Cattle herd drinking at the river (c) WWF


Relaxing after canoeing

Relaxing after canoeing (c) WWF

20 years of experience in Austria will help in restoration of the Drava River in Croatia

Austria – Last week partners in the DRAVA LIFE project visited the upper flow of the Danube River in Austria, where they were acquainted with 20-years’ experience of implementing EU LIFE river restoration projects. Continued work on improving degraded ecosystem of the Danube, which occurred due to the construction of hydroelectric power plants and maintenance of waterways, have significantly improved the ecological status of the Danube and its tributaries in Austria and stopped the trend of declining numbers of fish and birds, enabled the return of endemic species to the area and improved the flood protection, which is also the goal of the project in Croatia.

Representatives of Croatian Waters, Ministry of Environment and Energy, Green Osijek, public institutions for management of protected natural values along the Drava river and WWF visited five locations of the EU LIFE+ projects along the Danube. During the 20 years of implementation of the LIFE projects in the region of Lower Austria, where the majority of revenues is made through tourism and wine-making. By working together local communities, NGOs, energy sector and agency for waterways managed to restore about 100 km of the Danube flow, restored old sidearms, oxbows and gravel islands, and re-connected the main stream with its tributaries and floodplains. These actions have repaired the damage caused by hydropower plants upstream and downstream and managed to recover the biodiversity of the area, and thus increase the tourist value of the whole region.

On the first day partners visited the area of a large project of restoration on the river Traisen, which was previously cut off from its floodplains and the main flow of the Danube because of the construction of hydropower Altenwörth. The project built 12 km of a completely new river bed, through which the river Traisen was reconnected with its floodplains and the Danube. On the second day they visited the Wachau valley, known for its wines and apricot products, where several sidearms and natural banks were restored, several new river islands were created and gravel management was improved. The last day partners visited the longest European fish pass in the length of 14.2 km, which allows the fish to migrate past Ottensheim-Wilhering hydropower dam on the Danube. Although the fish pass opened only two months ago, fish monitoring shows that it is extremely successful and it is used by a growing number of fish not only for migration, but also for reproduction.

“The greatest benefits of these demanding river restoration works, except the obvious improvements of ecological and biological condition of the river system, have local communities and sectors of navigation, tourism, water management and energy, who use the water resources undisturbed. A multidisciplinary approach and involvement of all relevant stakeholders and competent state bodies has been developed and provided a high level of mutual trust that has resulted in a substantial reduction of administrative procedures such as obtaining location and building permits and impact assessment studies, which led to the successful implementation of a series of projects that are being implemented for 20 years,”said Zdenko Kereša, project manager in Croatian waters.

River ecosystems are among the most endangered ecosystems in Europe and the Drava River is no exception. As many as 22 hydropower plants in Austria, Slovenia and Croatia intersect Drava and left only a short section of free flowing river in Croatia. The aim of the five-year project DRAVA LIFE – integrated river management is to restore the river characteristics and degraded ecosystems to achieve the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive and Natura 2000. During the project partners will renovate and create 1,000 meters of dynamic river banks, 13 hectares of new dynamic river zones with gravel, sand and clay banks, 14.5 kilometers of sidearms and improve 300 hectares of floodplain forests.

“The exchange of experiences between LIFE projects is an integral part of project activities within the LIFE program in Europe. In addition to connecting many experts, we also learn about examples of good practice, which can be applied not only in the implementation of projects but also in the daily work of the institutions involved. This visit to LIFE projects in Austria is very beneficial for our project, we learned about the activities that we will conduct ourselves during the next four years and we opened various new, yet unknown, possibilities of improving the ecosystems of the river Drava,” said Branka Španiček from WWF Adria .

DRAVA LIFE Kick off u Legradu

DRAVA LIFE – Integrated River Management for people and nature

Last Friday, the 5-year EU project “DRAVA LIFE – Integrated River Management” was officially launched in Legrad, Croatia. The kick-off event had a varied programme, ranging from speeces, musical entertainment to a joint Drava descent. The project aims to improve the ecological status of the Drava and its ecosystem and to improve flood protection along the 300 kilometres long stretch of the Drava River in Croatia. The project partners, led by Croatian Waters, plan to achieve this goal through various restauration activities, cross-border cooperation, awareness raising and the reduction of human disturbance to river birds, such as the little tern.

22 hydropower plants were built in Austria, Slovenia and Croatia along the Drava, leaving only a short free-flowing section of the Drava, located mostly in Croatia, which is one of the last semi-natural rivers in Central Europe.

“The benefits of the project will be multiple. Not only for the environment, but also for the people who live in the area. The introduction of modern, environmentally friendly management methods will contribute to a better flood protection in populated areas. How important that is can be seen on the catastrophic floods of 2012, when the burst of embankments caused flooding of residential houses, industrial and agricultural facilities, infrastructure and agricultural land in Varazdin and Medjimurje County. The total damage reached a total amount of over € 65 million. However, the activities within the project will also greatly benefit a number of endangered species and habitats in Natura 2000 areas. The project will increase the recreational value of the area which is used for fishing, swimming and other activities”, said Deputy Minister of Environment and Nature Protection, Dr Mario Šiljeg at the opening of the project.

Through the cooperation of Hrvatske Vode, public institution for water management, County Institutions for nature protection, and non-governmental organizations, the key features of the Drava’s natural ecosystem will be restored by opening and creating new side arms, removal and adjustment of river dikes and other water structures, as well as through the preservation of natural retention areas and steep river banks. These procedures will benefit numerous endangered species and habitats within the Natura 2000 sites.

“Restoration of the river’s backwaters will provide better flood protection within the existing floodplain areas; contribute to local lowering of water levels and diversion of watercourses in urban areas, near bridges and villages during floods. The project will also have a positive impact on groundwater supplies because it will improve the reclamation of river infiltration into the groundwater and therefore stabilize and raise the groundwater level” Sc. Zoran Đuroković, General Manager of Croatian Waters said.

The main activities of habitat restoration will be carried out at seven locations along the Drava: Island Warwick (312 to 314.3 river km), Old Country Varazdin (289.3 to 292 river km), Donja Dubrava – Legrad (240 to 241.45 rkm) Most Botovo (226.6 to 227.9 river km), Novačka (214-217 rKM), Miholjački Martinci (104-106 rKM) and Podravska Moslavina (96-98 rkm). The project partners want to restore and preserve 1,000 metres of dynamic river banks, create 13 hectares of new dynamic river zones with gravel, sand and clay shores, restore or create 14.5 kilometres of backwaters and improve 300 hectares of floodplain forests.

“DRAVA LIFE project proves that a constructive cooperation between the non-governmental sector, government institutions and local governments is possible and that all can work together for the benefit of nature and the local population. The project is also a positive example for cooperation and the work to preserve natural values, not only for Croatia, but for the whole region”, Mr Sc Martin Solar, director of WWF Adria said.

During the project period partners will seek to reduce human disturbance of river birds during the breeding season and to improve the knowledge of the different Natura 2000 instruments to raise awareness amongst people. Furthermore, educational centres and paths along the Drava, information boards and points, as well as various communication and educational materials will be created. In addition, several exhibitions and campaigns will be held in cooperation with local people and schools.