Croatia: stakeholders' committee for river basin management

02/04/2007

Along the greater part of the Sava river floodplain in Croatia, downstream of the capital Zagreb, a cultural landscape remains that was typical for many central European regions until the late 19th century. In this area of the Central Posavina, 112,000 hectares of lowland riparian forests and periodically inundated pasture lands remain. The central flood retention polder, Lonjsko Polje, is listed as a Ramsar site and benefits from the administration by the local Nature Park (www.pp-lonjsko-polje.hr). The park director, Goran Gugic, was inspired by the Ramsar Convention tools and dedicated to turning these approaches into action on the ground.

The 17th anniversary of the publication of the decree which created the Nature Park, on 20 March 2007, was the occasion to launch the Ramsar Handbook on "River basin management" in a bilingual (Croatian-English) version, available as Volume 7 N°1/2 of the Nature Park Bulletin, and from the Park's website in PDF format for download. Assistant Minister Zoran Šikic presented this tool to the 46 participants in the meeting of the Central Posavina Stakeholder Committee for River Basin Management, underlining that "this was an important step in nature conservation policy". They gathered in the newly restored seminar house of the Nature Park in the traditional village Krapje along the flood banks of the Sava river.

Lonjsko Polje Regional Park is Croatia's largest Ramsar site and provides one of the best European examples for a flood control system based on the use of natural retention areas. With the creation of the Stakeholder Committee, the Park administration engages pro-actively into a planning process to address the needs to protect the natural and cultural heritage while managing regular important flood events and responding in a sustainable way to the increasing demands from developments concerning local tourism, river navigation, hydro-electricity production, and urbanization.

After an initial meeting on World Wetlands Day (2 February 2007), this was the first substantial meeting of the Stakeholder Committee. The participants represented 11 administrative units of five different Ministries, notably those dealing with Culture; Agriculture, Forestry & Water Management; Sea, Tourism, Transport & Development; Environmental Protection, Physical Planning & Construction; and Economy, Labour & Entrepreneurship. Representatives of the Counties (regional authorities) and towns concerned attended, notably Zagreb, Velika Gorica, Sisak and Slavonski Brod, as well as representatives of public services for protected areas, Croatian Waters and Croatian Forests, tourist associations, national and local NGOs, the scientific community and international organizations such as the International Sava River Commission, UNDP, IUCN and REC.

Lonjkso Polje Nature Park and Ramsar site thus serves as an experimental field to test new integrated management approaches from which other sites may also benefit. This participatory process, started in the Central Posavina region, should become a model for the entire Sava river basin and contribute to the current work of Ramsar's Scientific and Technical Review Panel on the "critical path", linking integrated river basin management with wetland wise use and conservation (cf. Resolution IX.1 Annex Ci). The Park is furthermore engaged in pioneering ground work regarding the systematic training of professional and voluntary park rangers, GIS mapping, dynamic visitor guidance depending on water levels (15,000 paying visitors per year), the restoration of the cultural heritage and the promotion of local breeds of pigs (Turopolje Pigs, extinct elsewhere because of brucellosis), Slavonian Grey Cattle (a means to eradicate the invasive alien bush False Indigo Amorpha sp.), and particularly Posavina breeds of horses, geese, chicken and hunting dogs.

-- Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

Assistant Minister Sikic responding to a TV crew in front of the newly restored seminar building of the Regional Park administration in the traditional village Krapje along the Sava river bank.

The stakeholders' meeting

One of the restored typical oak wood houses in the Central Posavina floodplain, now serving as a B&B for increasing numbers of tourists

Two pictures from the Lonjsko Polje floodplain, used as common pasture grounds when dry (note the high water marks on the oak trunk), plus a Slavonian Grey Cattle, newly reintroduced starting the task of eradicating the invasive alien False Indigo bush

Pigs eating acorns

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