Closer cooperation between Ramsar and the Danube Commission

08/04/2004

Mission Report 20-23 March 2004: Ecology Expert Group meeting of the Danube Convention

The Danube Commission (ICPDR) established for the period 2001-2004 an Ecology Expert Group (cf. our earlier report on the group's earlier meeting in Bavaria, which also supplies some background on the Danube Convention). In view of the 7th Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Danube River Protection Convention and Ministerial Conference, to be held in Vienna on 13-14 December 2004, all Expert Groups established by the ICPDR are now drawing their current work to a conclusion and exchanging their draft outputs to include other experts' comments. The Ordinary Meeting will adopt a "Roof Report" on the situation in the Danube river basin which will also fit the reporting requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). A CD-ROM produced by the European Commission was distributed to the group providing guidance to the WFD Common Implementation Strategy, also accessible via http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/water/ .

The Ecology Expert Group (ECO EG) met on 22-23 March 2004 in the South Moravian city of Brno (Czech Republic) to review the progress of its work and hear about specific outputs of the River Basin Management and Flood Protection Expert Groups among others. During a night session in a Brno bar cellar, ECO experts prepared a text on "wetlands" to be included in the Roof Report and the next morning discussed a further draft of the "Issue paper on wetlands" (available on request from the Ramsar Secretariat) in preparation for the Ordinary Meeting of ICPDR. The group also heard an update on progress with the UNDP-GEF Danube Regional Project now entering its second phase.

The ECO EG began a reflection on its future tasks and responsibilities for the period 2005 and beyond. Austria proposed to reinforce cooperation with the Ramsar Convention, notably in view of Ramsar issues to be fed into the Joint Action Programme of the Danube river basin states - a very interesting proposal that will be explored in more detail during the upcoming meeting of the ECO EG, scheduled for 6-7 September 2004 in Sofia, by invitation of the Bulgarian Minister of Environment and Waters, Ms Dolores Arsenova.

For the year 2004, the European Commission (a Contracting Party to the Danube Convention) is taking over the Presidency of the ICPDR. This is particularly appropriate during a time when four additional Danube countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia) will join the European Union on 1 May 2004. It is also the year marking the 10th anniversary of the Danube River Protection Convention. On this occasion, the ICPDR will launch the celebration of the Danube Day on 29 June (for more information visit www.danubeday.org).

Prior to the meeting, the Ecology Expert Group was invited by Petr Kupec, on behalf of the Czech Ministry of Environment, to visit the Morava-Dyje floodplains (efforts by NGOs to establish a trilateral Ramsar platform in this area received a Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award in 2002). On Sunday, 21 March, the group visited the Krive Jezero nature reserve just downstream of the communist-built Nove Mlyny reservoirs on the Dyje river, and the extensive floodplain hardwood forests in the Soutok area, close to the confluence of Dyje and Morava rivers. They were guided by Alexander Zinke (providing technical support to the ICPDR Secretariat) and Jiri Netek of the Czech State Forestry Enterprise. Originally, heavy sluices and dikes were constructed to prevent Dyje river floods from inundating the floodplain. However, it was later realised that regular flooding is necessary to sustain the ecosystem functioning of the riverine forests and meadows, producing important economic revenues through high quality timber production and big game hunting, as well as an outstanding harbour for biodiversity (with some of Europe's best old-growth hardwood forest reserves). Modern thinking changed the hydraulic interventions radically: sluices originally constructed to drain the floodplain area are now functioning the opposite way, retaining floods and providing dry polders with regular inundations. After this impressive visit, the experts concluded their excursion in a wine cellar in Pavlov village (cf. photos).

-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar.

Adriana Klindova, Slovak Republic, Ramsar Convention focal point and newly elected chairperson of the ECO EG, photographing Petr Kupec, the Czech expert on the group.

The Dyje floods

Dyje forest

A restored branch of the Dyje

The ECO EG with a big oak, Soutok area

ECO EG on a new sluice gate established to provide regular floodings to the Krive Jezero nature reserve (during our visit the area was still rather dry).

ECO EG in flooded forest

Morava-Dyie restoration area

Wine tasting in progress, village of Pavlov

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