More than 80% of wetlands and floodplains of the Danube River and its tributaries have been lost, and with them the ecosystem goods and services they provide, from fish and wildlife to flood and drought management. Fortunately, there is a growing appreciation of rivers and wetlands, and government commitments to not only conserve what remains, but also to restore what we have lost. However, actually restoring these areas involves a painstaking process of stakeholder engagement that can take years before actual measures like breaching dykes can be undertaken. As a result, most commitments to wetland restoration in the Danube basin remain on paper and not realised in practice.
The Living Danube Partnership has sought to address this challenge of implementation. At the 2020 IRS, we presented the overall results and lessons learned from the eight-year cross-sectoral partnership of WWF-CEE, The Coca-Cola Foundation and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) to promote the conservation and restoration of wetlands as well as the restoration and protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the Danube basin. In 2021, we will focus on lessons learned from the 9 individual river and wetland restoration projects. Using a special Google app developed for the Partnership, we will take a virtual tour of the Danube basin, stopping at individual restoration sites — from the unique soda lakes at Neusiedler See in Austria through the floodplain forest at Lankocs in Hungary on down to the Danube floodplains at Garla Mare in Romania and Belene in Bulgaria.
‘The care of rivers is not a question of rivers, but of the human heart’
People and rivers are inter-dependent and need each other to thrive. This is the philosophy that underpins the work of the Australian River Restoration Centre, an organisation that has at its core, an approach that values people as much as the rivers they care about. The Centre’s starting point is that people are part of the solution rather than the problem, and that it is only by working in partnership, that we can achieve great outcomes for people and rivers alike. River restoration conversations are undertaken with an open, collaborative and non-judging mind set, and decisions are made together with landholders and communities about the actions needed to protect or restore their river, wetland or billabong. At the Australian River Restoration Centre, we know that for resilient rivers, we need resilient communities – and for resilience to be built, we need trusted relationships, emotional connection and holistic river management. This presentation will discuss how the Australian River Restoration Centre has put these elements into practice through their on-ground Rivers of Carbon Program, an initiative that has grown in impact and influence since its inception in 2012.
Are we coping under extremity? How do we adapt to uncertainty? Are we transitioning, and if so, how and for what purpose? These are questions that lie at the heart of a resilient and vibrant river future. Yet so often, those tasked with responding are not necessarily those living with or inheriting the outcomes. So, what might it mean to do things differently? Well undoubtedly, we’re likely to confront an elephant or two- large, complex and long-standing creatures that can be slow to shift. But! If we engage meaningfully, allow time and listen carefully, perhaps there is more to encounter- Something lurking that has been there all along, yet often overlooked. Something with parts familiar to us, yet as one decidedly unique. Something that connects cultures and environments. Perhaps, there is a Platypus for us all.