2 February 2006
EMBARGO: February 2, 2006 00:01 Vienna Time
Wetlands Day -- Water Plants Help Danube Countries Meet EU Law
VIENNA, 2 February (UN Information Service) -- A new project was launched today to better use natural Danube water plants for reducing water pollution. Danube countries need to reduce water pollution to meet European Union (EU) water protection legislation, known as the Water Framework Directive, by 2015. This includes non-EU countries sharing the Danube River Basin that voluntarily agreed to meet EU water law.
Danube countries are now making plans to ensure that waters within their national boundaries are clean and protected by 2015. The new project, funded by the United Nations Development Programme-Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF) Danube Regional Project (DRP), will encourage national water managers to use water plants to help reduce pollution and to include such actions in their national plans to clean Danube waters. Outputs from the project will include guidelines and case studies where water plants have significantly improved water quality.
The water plants are located in 'wetlands' -- places where water and land naturally cooperate to protect water, animals, plants and humans. Besides absorbing pollutants, wetlands help reduce the impact of floods and provide homes for important aquatic species, amongst other things.
"The DRP encourages Danube countries to value wetlands more in their efforts to meet EU law," says DRP Expert Peter Whalley. "We also hope Danube wetlands will be better protected in the future."
Some 80 per cent of Danube wetlands and floodplains have been lost due to past human activities, from river channelling to making room for farmland. "Danube floodplains are among the most important remaining floodplains in Europe," says Tobias Salathe from the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
The DRP is also supporting a local campaign in Vojvodina region, Serbia and Montenegro. Its goal is to protect the Zasavica Special Nature Reserve and its wetlands from illegal garbage dumping, tree cutting and hunting.
The Zasavica campaign was launched today on International Wetlands Day as part of the larger International Wetlands Campaign by the Danube Environmental Forum (DEF). DEF is the largest network of Danube environmental NGOs in the Danube River Basin. The DEF campaign will encourage national water managers to adequately incorporate wetland protection into their national plans.
The DRP also continues to fund a project implemented by the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme to prepare new policies for wetlands rehabilitation and protection. This includes local pilot projects in Croatia, Romania and Slovakia.
Note to Editors:
What is World Wetlands Day? 2 February each year marks the date of the signing of the Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands in 1971. Since then, each year, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and groups of citizens at all levels have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits and the Ramsar Convention.
What is the Danube Regional Project? The overall goal of the Danube Regional Project (DRP) is to improve the environment of the Danube River Basin, protect its waters and sustainably manage its natural resources for the benefit of nature and people. The DRP helps 13 Danube countries implement the Danube River Protection Convention primarily through reducing nutrient and toxic pollution and strengthening trans-boundary cooperation in the most international river basin in the world. Through its partnerships with Governments, industry, NGOs and local communities, the DRP provides both technical and financial support. It also ensures, through sophisticated public participation and communications activities, that all Danube stakeholders are aware of relevant issues and can put their concerns into action.
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