77,000 votes for the Mura River without hydropower plants
The Mura River is the last major river in Slovenia not partitioned with dams, which is reflected in its exceptional biodiversity, as it has 51 indigenous fish species. At the same time, it is home to Slovenian largest floodplain forests, whose remarkable significance is again evident in the current floods in the region, where damage would be much greater without natural water retention in forests and wetlands. These exceptional natural features of the Mura River were once recognized by Slovene politics and protected it as part of the Natura 2000 network and nominated it for the UNESCO Transboundary Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube together with the most preserved parts of the Drava and Danube in the region. When the process of nominations in UNESCO is completed, this area i.e the Amazon of European will become the largest protected riverine area in Europe, shared by five countries.
"In the campaign that has been going on for more than two years, we are constantly warning of the negative consequences of the construction of power plants on the Mura River and, as the environmental report has shown, justified. We have now added more than 77,000 votes of people who do not want hydropower plants and river full of concrete on the Mura, but the sustainable development of the region with a natural and healthy river as the basis for this development", said Stojan Habjanič, campaign coordinator Let's save the Mura!.
This year’s World Water Day is focused on raising awareness about the nature based solutions. Its central message, also adopted by the Slovenian Ministry of the Environment, is that there are natural based solutions, such as planting trees to restore floodplain forests, reconnecting rivers with floodplains and restoring wetlands to mitigate the effects of climate change. NGOs and local people also advocate for such solutions and emphasize that hydropower plants are not nature based solutions.
"The Mura River is much more than just a reservoir of kinetic energy. It is the source of life for people and nature, which for centuries marked the landscape and became part of the soul of the inhabitants. Mura swirls on canvas painters, breathes from the literary works of writers, inspires musicians, and has witnessed thousands of first loves and stolen kisses", said Samo Tuš, president of the Association of My Mura Associations.
"Those who have received a concession for the possible energy use of the Mura, completely misrepresent the actual situation and the concerns of thousands of inhabitants are shown as a handful of freaks who oppose the progress of some butterflies, birds, fish and frogs. Our river suffers serious consequences from the power plants in its upper stream and due to unreasonable agromelioration interventions in the past. Planners in Maribor and the authorities in Ljubljana must realize that they have no rights for such rough intervention in the river, sending the whole area to dialysis. Mura is the wounded kidney of Prekmurje and Prlekija, which we must restore, and not further destroy", Tuš added.
Campaign Save the Mura! has received a lot of attention in the neighbouring countries as well as the whole of the EU, mainly because it would be the first new large hydropower plant in the Natura 2000 area throughout Europe, and the project would also endanger the Slovenian part of the European Amazon, where the EU invests millions of euros in river restoration projects and better cross-border management. The campaign was also supported by the World Conservation Organization (WWF) Office for European Affairs in Brussels, where they are just launching a Europe-wide campaign to maintain the EU Water Directive, and the WWF US is working for more than five decades with the government in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers program and in the demolition of dams in order to restore the natural state of the highest number of rivers.
"The support of tens of thousands of people from Slovenia and the world to preserve the natural Mura River is extremely encouraging. The public has given a clear message that we must save the Mura! Signatures are also a loud message to the Slovenian government that it must continue to protect this remarkable river for future generations and not allow destruction only because of narrow, one-sided interests. We are expecting that Irena Majcen will do everything she can to stop the Hrastje-Mota project and all other planned dams on the Mura River in Slovenia with this huge support in her hands", said Arno Mohl, an expert on rivers in WWF.
Today, in the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia, a unique exhibition "The Mura Request" has been opened, where Slovenian, Austrian and Croatian artists point to the burning issue of Mura depletion and ask the public in their name to invite the river to remain their muse and our common wealth for future generations.