Letenye, Hungary – The international event “Amazon of Europe Celebration”, organised today in the framework of the “coop MDD” project in Letenye, brought together more than 200 people, NGOs and governmental institutions from five countries in joint celebration of our shared natural heritage: Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers, the “Amazon of Europe”, that will in the next years become protected as the world’s first 5-country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Spanning across Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, the riverine landscape of the lower courses of the Drava and Mura and related Danube sections form a 700 kilometres long “green belt”. It connects almost 1,000,000 hectares of highly valuable natural and cultural landscapes into one of Europe’s most important bio-corridors.
“It’s very important to preserve the natural values, conditions and cultural heritage of our amazing region and present it to the other parts of Hungary and Europe. Preserving natural values is closely related to habitat maintenance and at the same time to ecotourism. Within the coop MDD program, BfNPI is planning of the oxbow revitalization and the establishment of River School by river Mura. European funds are of great help to achieve this and connect our activities also to other EU projects like KEHOP and Life IP,” said Zoltán Puskás, director of Balaton-felvidéki National Park Directorate.
“Balaton-felvidéki National Park Directorate’s provides the foundations for the regional development. With the KEHOP project we are developing sustainable farming through the complex habitat development of Mura-mente and development of the Farming Centre. But the regional developments don’t need to be limited only to protected areas alone, significant parts of the transitional zone of the Biosphere Reserve will also be targeted for sustainable development initiatives,” said Dr. András Rácz, Deputy State Secretary for Environment in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Since 1993, NGOs and public authorities are working towards the protection of this unique landscape. This process is now culminating as the official nomination process to UNESCO is either under way or already finalized in all countries. This year Croatia and Hungary celebrate already the 5-year anniversary, while Serbian part – Bačko Podunavlje – has just been approved and added to the UNESCO „Man and Biosphere“ program World List of Biosphere Reserves last month. The Slovenian nomination has been submitted to UNESCO, while the Austrian one is currently under preparation.
“Managing the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve is a big challenge, but it also brings an economic potential with socio-cultural and ecological sustainability. The three basic tasks that Biosphere Reserves are fulfilling are the preservation of exceptional natural values of this area (landscape and biodiversity), the promotion of sustainable development and scientific work, all in the service of improving the quality of life of the inhabitants of this area,” said Mila Preradović from Croatian Ministry of Environment and Energy.
In order to celebrate this anniversary and inform the public about the benefits of Biosphere Reserves, coop MDD project, financed by EU through the Interreg Danube Transboundary Programme 2014-2020, organised an international event in Hungary – “Amazon of Europe Celebration” – with official speeches of representatives of ministries and partners from all countries, cultural programme, NGO bazaar, workshops for children and local food.
“The coop MDD project gives us, for the first time, the chance to bring together around one table all managers of Protected Areas included in the future 5-country Biosphere Reserve. As nature doesn’t recognize borders, also nature protection and management needs to work transboundary. Within the coop MDD we will develop a joint Management Programme that will guide our joint actions for many years to come. This project is also a great chance to involve many stakeholders, from Ministries and NGOs to regional land users and the local population, into the setting-up of the future 5-country Biosphere Reserve. Events like today are a great chance for connecting various stakeholders and to bring the passion about the joint natural heritage to life,” said Magdalena Wagner, coop MDD Project Manager from WWF Austria.
In the morning, a special study trip to the Mura River was organised for representatives from five countries. As the best way to experience the river is to paddle it, project partners organised guided rafting tour, so that representatives could see from the first hand the beauty of natural rivers and benefits they provide to the local people.
“The goals the coop MDD project are in full accordance with the objects of Mura National Program as both aim to draw attention to the unique natural and cultural values, including the potential in tourism and in the agricultural sector. Our main goal is the sustainable development that will help increase the welfare of people and communities locally. The phrase `Amazon of Europe` suggests that it is a unique natural value, so I hope that with the cooperation of five countries we can show this value to wider European public,” said Péter Cseresnyés, member of Hungarian Parliament and State Secretary for the Labour Market and Education in the Ministry for National Economy.