Five countries submit biosphere reserve UNESCO nomination
Ljubljana, 1 October - Slovenia, along with four other countries, Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, submitted on Monday a joint nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to declare the area along the rivers Mura, Drava and Danube the first biosphere reserve including five countries in the world.
According to the environmental NGO WWF Adria, this was the last step in the process of establishing the Mura-Drava-Danube biosphere reserve, which is expected to be declared by UNESCO in June next year.
The Mura, the starting point of Europe's Amazon, merges with the Drava at the Croatian-Hungarian border and the two rivers then join Danube.
WWF Adria, environment ministries and other environmental partners from all five participating countries have been striving to protect the area long-term for the past 20 years.
The lower sections of the three rivers and their flood plains, stretching across Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia, form one of the most bio-diverse natural environments in Europe.
The river flow constantly creates new habitats for numerous threatened animals and plants, including more than 300 bird species. Many fish species, such as sterlet and huchen or Danube salmon, use the 700km-long river network to migrate.
Meanwhile, environmentalists highlight that the region's identity and local living standards are also dependant on the rivers - intact flood plains protect villages against flooding and provide drinking water supplies, while the stunning landscape promotes sustainable tourism development.
Croatia and Hungary completed their parts of the joint project in 2012, followed by Serbia in 2017 and Slovenia last year. In June, UNESCO put in the last piece of the puzzle, having recognised the Mura area in Austria as an exceptional riverine landscape and declared it a biosphere reserve.