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ZAGREB – On the eve of the World Wetlands Day, WWF reminds us to forget the myth that wetlands are a source of different diseases. It is thoughts like this that have led to the devastation of wetland habitats, which are considered the most productive ecosystems on the planet.
Countries in our region are among the 169 countries in the world signatories to the Ramsar Convention, which obliges us to preserve wetlands. The Ramsar wetlands list of international importance contains croatian nature parks Lonjsko polje, Kopački rit and Vrana lake, ponds Crna Mlaka and Delta of Neretva river.
Delta of Neretva river under threat
"Thanks to good management of natural parks, Lonjsko polje and Kopački rit wetlands are areas in which we can recognize all their beauty and value. Apart from being the center of biodiversity, wetlands provide many services to people: from flood protection and water purification, over natural resources such as timber and fish, to the storage of carbon dioxide and number of socio-economic services for tourism and recreation. However, the Delta of Neretva river is the example of unsustainable use of wetland habitat that can lead to the edge of survival. For several years, there is an initiative to proclaim the Delta of Neretva river a nature park, which would lead to better management and the recovery of this area ' claims Irma Popović Dujmović from WWF Adria, also adding that better management would result in larger number of fishes and birds returning to this beautiful area.
"Conserved Delta of Neretva river is a great potential for better life of the local community and it should be recognized as an opportunity for development, not as a threat. Mandarin oranges coming from the nature park would have a much higher value than the currently, but the local authorities consider this as a threat and are afraid of the law restrictions. It is true that some restrictions can pop up as an obstacle, but in the long run, benefits can be much bigger than the obstacles. ", emphasizes Popovic Dujmovic.
Poor legislation enables the disastrous state of wetlands in Bosnia and Herzegovina
There are three internationally protected wetlands in Bosnia and Herzegovina under Ramsar Convention protection – Livno field, Hutovo blato and Bardača. In the last 20 years those areas have been significantly degraded due to bad practices, and disrespecting national laws and international commitments.
Today in Bosnia and Herzegovina there is a legal framework that allows our wetlands of international importance to remain preserved. However, EU directives are transposed only nominally while in practice we are in the 1970s. Environmental impact assessments are handled unprofessionally and sloppy. Environmental permits for facilities that are threatening wetlands of international importance have been reduced to a mere formality and are issued without any technical considerations. The result of poor implementation of domestic laws and outdated practices, which in Europe have been rejected long ago, represents disastrous state of wetland ecosystems of Hutovo Blato, Livno field and Bardača" says Zoran Mateljak, representative of WWF Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Skadar lake under threat to be deleted from the Ramsar wetlands list
Skadar lake is Ramsar site in Montenegro and is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the Balkans and home for 280 type of birds and many other endemic plant and animal species. Although the lake resisted different kinds of pressures, today it is under the threat of permanent devastation due to the rampant construction and unsustainable hydropower development. "There are disturbing trends of unsustainable development planning in the area of Skadar Lake. The construction plan of hydropower plants on Morača today includes eight hydropower plants that the Government keeps under a veil of secrecy. Special Purpose Spatial Plan for the National Park Skadar Lake, which is currently in development, by 2025 implies the construction of mega tourist structures, commercial villas and apartments whose capacity exceeds by about 200% the number of tourist accommodation units compared to year 2015. In unspoiled nature, construction areas are opened, docks built, landscapes collapsed, because of which the Skadar Lake could be deleted from the list of Ramsar sites. Montenegro has already been warned by the Ramsar Secretariat. To prevent this devastation Montenegro government should declare a moratorium on construction in the area of the lake and define stricter limits in terms of protecting biodiversity, landscape and economy of the local population, who mostly depends on fishing and traditional tourism, "says Natasa Kovacevic, director of NGO Green Home.
Wetlands in Slovenia are habitats in the worst condition
Slovenia is proud to have three Ramsar sites that span across 8,205 hectares: Sečovlje salt-pans, Škocjan caves and Lake Cerknica. Despite significant investments in recent years, wetland habitats still remain as those in the worst condition.
„We have lost too many wetlands in Slovenia in the past and the situation is far from ideal as evidenced by the report on the state of biodiversity in Slovenia, where it is precisely stated that this type of habitat is among those in the worst condition. All three Ramsar sites in Slovenia are included in the ecological network Natura 2000. Thanks to the activities financed through the EU LIFE program, which helped to restore many wetlands in Slovenia in the past, positive change is slightly noticed“, says Neža Posnjak from the Alpine Rivers program in WWF Adria.
The disappearance of floodplains in Serbia
Ten protected areas in Serbia are marked as Ramsar sites. Wetlands and floodplains along the Danube and their protection and restoration are the focus of WWF . More than 80% of wetlands have disappeared in the past 150 years in order to control the Danube river navigation, agriculture and construction of the hydropower plants and many species of plants and animals with them.
"With the disappearance of floodplains, the potential for flood mitigation has been significantly reduced. It is necessary to restore as much wetland habitat as possible, so the river can get more space for its natural dynamics that best regulate large flood waves, " says Duska Dimovic, representative of WWF in Serbia.