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Hutovo Blato on Fire! Why Wetland Restoration is Important

WWF and other environmental organizations have been warning about the alarming state of Hutovo Blato for years.

Mostar - WWF and other environmental organizations have been warning for years about the alarming state of Hutovo Blato, which has lost over 50% of its water in the last 60 years due to the changed water regime. Unfortunately, due to the degradation and drying up of the wetland, last weekend we witnessed a fire in the heart of the Hutovo Blato Nature Park itself.

Hutovo Blato is a freshwater treasure of Bosnia and Herzegovina, internationally recognized as a wetland of great importance according to the Ramsar Convention, especially for migratory birds and endemic fish species. Unfortunately, the nature park area suffers great negative impacts due to the operation of hydropower plants in the Trebišnjica river basin, which changed the natural flow of water to this wetland area, due to which it is drying up and gradually disappearing.
"We have been warning about the condition of Hutovo Blato for years. This is not the first time that a fire has broken out in the Nature Park because habitats have been destroyed to such an extent that they have completely dried up and overrun by weeds, which is conducive to the spread of the fire. Each fire represents an immeasurable loss for the Park itself, but also for Bosnia and Herzegovina, which must recognize the importance of this unique place, as well as its contribution not only to the biological diversity of our country but also to mitigating the climate crisis", said Zoran Mateljak from WWF Adria.

Back in 2014, WWF presented the Action Plan for the Restoration of the Wetland Ecosystem Hutovo Blato, which clearly portrayed the problems in the Nature Park at the time, but also offered solutions to improve its status. It was also an invitation to electric utility companies Elektroprivreda HZHB and Elektroprivreda RS to adjust their operations and make an active contribution to the restoration and conservation of the remaining area of this important wetland. The Bosnian and Herzegovinian public is still waiting for their contribution.
"Although eight years ago we expected the power companies to understand and recognize the importance of the Action Plan, we could not wait any longer. The situation required us to start restoration projects, so in April this year, work will begin on the revitalization of part of the Nature Park, which would remove excessive vegetation and improve water circulation. In addition to the project funded by the MAVA Foundation, the EU Horizon 2020 project MERLIN is also being implemented, which would increase the area of the restored part of Hutovo Blato by 2024. Apart from the fact that the restoration will initiate long-term positive changes for the entire ecosystem, people and activities that depend on the Nature Park, it will also reduce the possibility of new fires", said Mateljak.
The fire in Hutovo Blato was extinguished thanks to the quick and professional intervention of the local fire brigade, but those responsible for the current situation are still silent. It is therefore important to recall the importance of protecting and restoring wetlands such as Hutovo Blato, especially when we know that they have enormous potential to contribute to combating the climate crisis and removing carbon from the atmosphere.
By investing in the restoration of the Hutovo Blato Nature Park, we ensure that future generations can enjoy one of the incredible natural treasures of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but we also create new opportunities for the development of local communities. The future of our country must be based on investments in the protection and restoration of natural resources, as well as sustainable business practices and the transformation of all sectors that use these resources.
Hutovo Blato
Hutovo Blato

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