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. This ambitious initiative aims to safeguard the natural heritage of the Drava, one of Europe’s last semi-natural rivers, and enhance its dynamics and morphology along its 300-kilometer course through Croatia.
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 Gornja Drava (Croatian Waters); Jasmin Sadiković from Zeleni Osijek; Željka Kolar, Director of the Public institutution for the Management of Protected Nature Areas in Koprivnica-Križevac County; and Tanja Nikowitz from WWF Austria.
Igor Horvat emphasized, ‘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. 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.’
Milan Rezo, the director of the Water Management Department for Mura and Gornja Drava in Croatian Waters, concluded, ‘After many years of preparation, the start of work at this location is a significant milestone in the implementation of the Project.’
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 the organization 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-state UNESCO biosphere reserve Mura-Drava-Danube, known as the ‘European Amazon.’ 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 Croatian waters, presented the upcoming plans and led participants to the branch of the river, where the works were ceremonially opened by burying shovels.
Gratitude to everyone who joined us, making this day truly special! Your presence and support mean the world to us.