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Balkan Rivers Attract Hundreds of Rafters Across the Globe

The World Rafting Cup serves as a great reminder of all the opportunities free-flowing rivers provide to communities and why we need to establish durable protection mechanisms

The greatest natural resource of our region is water. Flowing down countless rivers and streams, it provides numerous benefits for people and supports tremendous biodiversity. This is recognized by hundreds of rafters from more than 20 countries who gathered this week in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the World Rafting Cup.

To protect the freshwater treasures of Southeast Europe, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), WWF Adria, Center for Environment, and many other organizations, including local and regional rafting associations, initiated the Durable Freshwater Protection Initiative.

“We see durable freshwater protection as enduring protection for freshwater ecosystems and the values they sustain. Only carefully managed and protected ecosystems can deliver biodiversity gains, while simultaneously supporting the social values they provide to the local communities and beyond. We are striving to implement this model of thinking in our work with the vision of protecting some of the world’s most pristine river ecosystems that are critical to freshwater life”, explained Tamara Preininger Horvat from The Nature Conservancy.

Over the past few years, the initiative has gained momentum, and we already have several examples of DFP in Montenegro and Croatia. Following that success, the initiative is working on establishing new river-protected areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

“In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are working on the protection of the upper course of the Neretva River. The river offers a mosaic of habitats inhabited by a large number of rare and endemic plant and animal species in urgent need of protection. That is why, in June 2021, we launched an initiative to declare two new protected areas on the Neretva River. While we wait for the results of relevant studies, we hope these will be the first examples of durable freshwater protection in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, said Jelena Ivanić from the Center for Environment.

The World Rafting Cup serves as a great reminder of all the opportunities free-flowing rivers provide to communities, not only in terms of recreation and well-being but also in development and sustainability.

“In our work on river protection, rafters and rafting organizations have been real allies and are best ambassadors for free-flowing rivers. Together, we hope to change people’s perceptions of rivers, reconnecting them with nature and ensuring the long-term preservation of our most valuable natural resources”, concluded Irma Popović Dujmović from WWF Adria.

As we enjoy the display of skill and sport, let us keep in mind that it has been proven how spending only two hours per week in nature can have a significant benefit on our health, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving our overall physical and mental well-being. For these, and many other benefits, we must protect our freshwater treasures and ensure they are managed well
Initiative for Durable Freshwater Protection at the World Rafting Cup

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