Discovering Danube: 8 Things to Remember

dan dunava

Ahead of Danube Day, celebrating one of the rivers synonymous with Europe, this amazing natural resource is facing a plethora of environmental threats. Some of them include communal and industrial pollution, intensive farming, hunting, and construction projects. Solving them requires a joint, intersectional approach in all spheres of environmental protection. Danube Day was established as a special reminder of this river’s importance for our health, basic needs, and environment.

The 2020 year’s theme was supposed to be „Discovering Danube“. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most of the outdoor activities dedicated to celebrating the Danube have been canceled. Some of the events will still take place online – there is a detailed schedule at the site of the event coordinator, International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). Following this theme, on this Danube Day, let’s remember what it is that we’re celebrating – and why conserving this jewel of nature is worth our time and efforts.

1. Second longest river

The Danube River is the second-longest river in Europe, originating in Germany and flowing 2,850km through 10 countries before draining into the Black Sea. The place of its birth is Black Forest mountain in Germany.

From this place, it flows through four European capital cities, including Belgrade, which lies at the confluence of Danube and Sava rivers. The average discharge of the river is 6,600 cubic meters per second.

2. The cradle of cultures

River basins have been home to the earliest human civilizations and cultures – and the Danube River is no exception. These cultures include Danubian Neolithic cultures, as well as the Vinča culture that existed from sixth-to-third millennium BC, with its remnants as a valuable heritage site in Serbia. Serbia has more than 20 archeological locations and fortresses along the river – you can learn more about them and plan a trip at the Danube Virtual Museum.

The Danube has often been both a border and a crossing between cities, provinces, cultures, and empires, including the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and Habsburg Monarchy.

3. Valuable natural source

According to the ICDPR Interim Report, more than 59 million people in the Danube River Basin get their drinking water from groundwater – that’s 72% of the total population. However, groundwater is extremely vulnerable to over-abstraction – using more water than is possible to be naturally replaced.

Additionally, agricultural pollution poses a serious threat to this valuable source. There are numerous projects in Danube countries devised to tackle this issue – and some of these solutions include improved farming techniques, water use regulation, pollution clean-up, and a wide range of ingenious economic activities.

4. UNESCO Heritage Site

In 1996, the Danube Delta located in the areas of Romania and Ukraine was designated a UNESCO Heritage Site. Its intricate labyrinth of lakes, channels, islands, and marches hosta more than 300 species of birds, as well as 90 freshwater fish species.

It is also an important stopover and breeding area for numerous species. The delta is Europe’s largest wetland and reed bed, and functions as its most important water purification system.

5. Fascinating biodiversity

The world’s biggest research expedition in 2013, Joint Danube Survey was a great opportunity to assess both issues and the current state of Europe’s valued reiver. Danube’s habitats are a home to 2,000 vascular plants and more than 5,000 animal species, including over 40 mammals, about 180 breeding birds and 100 fish species, 12 reptiles and amphibians. 

On top of that, the river’s floodplain forests and the Danive Delta are one of the last remaining continental European habitats for the endangered species such as the white-tailed eagle and white pelicans. Fourth Joint Danube Survey has kicked off in 2019 and is expected to yield results in 2021.

6. Successful conservation efforts

Understanding the importance of Danube’s biodiversity conservation has led to significant efforts to restore populations of some endangered species. Beavers have been successfully reintroduced in the river after nearly being driven to extinction.

The Beluga Sturgeon, one of the oldest species of freshwater fish, is native to the Danube and an important icon for the ICPDR. Their numbers have declined dramatically in the past decades, leading to the establishment of the Danube Sturgeon Task Force that seeks to revive sturgeon populations. 

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Serbia takes part in the project “Life for Danube Sturgeons” which kicked off in October 2016 and ends this year. The project contributed to the permanent ban on sterlet fishing. In cooperation with local partners, WWF also established a “Sturgeon Center” in Negotin, an informal group of citizens who will take part in creating a brand based on promoting sturgeons as a trademark of this part of Serbia.

The members of Sturgeon Center also want to include young locals, students of economy, marketing, and management in the development of a business plan that will define promotion strategy and financing models for local entrepreneurs. If you want to learn more about sturgeons, click here. You can also watch the documentary “Predators” by Dragan Gmizić. It tells a story about illegal fishing, its consequences for the fish population in Serbia, as well as challenges faced by the individuals, organizations, and institutions in charge of breaking up this practice.

7. The great comeback

The Covid-19 pandemic brought an unexpected reprieve to the nature. With lockdowns and restrictions that limited traffic and human activity in natural areas all over the world, there have been sightings of numerous species that had previously left their native habitats. In Serbian part of the Danube River, this happened with Dalmatian Pelican

It used to frequent the river’s marsh areas 100 years ago, but now it is considered endangered species, with no more than 13.400 individuals left. Dalmatian Pelican is one of the largest freshwaters birds in the world, with excellent flying, swimming, and fish-hunting skills. Their reappearance in the Danube River is a great headstart for future biodiversity conservation efforts in the area. 

8. Adventure for cyclists

If you want to enjoy the natural wonders of the Danube River and at the same time challenge yourself, the Danube Bike Trail may be the adventure you’re looking for. It is comprised of four sections along the river, including Donaueschingen-Passau, Passau-Vienna, Vienna-Budapest, and Budapest-Black Sea.

It is an amazing opportunity to start your journey where the river begins and finish it where it ends, at the mouth of Black Sea. You can find more info about the routes and requirements here.

Are you ready to learn some new facts about the Danube River? Head to the Danube Day official website, where you’ll find schedules, information, reports, amazing artwork, and an interactive quiz to test your knowledge about Europe’s second-largest river. 

But, it’s important not to forget that all the natural wonders of the Danube and other rivers in Serbia are under immense pressure due to pollution, hunting, and construction projects. Truly celebrating this river’s beauty means protecting it – and protection starts with education. 

Young Researchers of Serbia are preparing an online course on the protection of waters in Serbia. It will equip you with valuable information about the state of the country’s waters, dangers to them, as well as the proactive ways to reverse the difficult situation and find innovative solutions to environmental issues. 

Want to receive info on our latest courses? Just subscribe using the form below, and we’ll deliver all the important info about the environment straight to your inbox. 

Stay in touch!

Sign up for our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest news, activities, open calls, and courses!