Year 1 in Review
by Helmut Habersack
Helmut, Lead Project Coordinator of DANUBE4all, is a Full Professor of Hydraulic Engineering and Modelling at the Department of Water, Atmosphere and Environment at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), Austria.
Before becoming Head of the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and River Research (IWA) at BOKU, Helmut was Head of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Advanced Methods in River Monitoring, Modelling and Engineering. Helmut has over 25 years of experience in sediment transport, hydropower, river engineering/morphology/restoration, flood risk management, ecohydraulics and navigation. He is the author of over 100 SCI journal publications, a regular national and international keynote speaker, and organizes the International Conferences 'On the Status and Future of the Worlds´s Large Rivers', among many more professional accolades and accomplishments.
Image 1 : Project research site at Donau-Auen National Park ©Johannes Zinner
Image 2 : Nace fish © Robert Togel (Images courtesy of viadonau )
With this first project year coming to a close, I am delighted to look back and see the progress we have made. DANUBE4all is a project I have wanted to implement for a long time. The restoration of this great European river is such a vital mission and as Project Coordinator, I am thrilled to be part of this endeavour. Coordinating such a large consortium with equally ambitious goals is challenging, so it is very encouraging to see what already has been possible in this first year.
Europe's rivers face significant disruptions resulting in a loss of connectivity and ecological degradation. Despite EU policy frameworks, the implementation of restoration efforts is lagging due to factors such as a lack of knowledge, awareness, and local participation. DANUBE4all was set up to tackle these challenges by creating interdisciplinary restoration pathways for the Danube River Basin.
DANUBE4all adopts a science-to-people approach, meeting the idea of a Mission to actively involving inhabitants, local communities, SMEs, investors, policymakers, and the business sector. The project will identify, evaluate, prioritize, implement and upscale effective and profitable ‘win-win’ Nature Based Solution restoration measures in order to enhance the river ecosystem by integrating its use and protection. The project’s ultimate goal is to collaboratively develop a Danube Basin Restoration Action Plan through comprehensive scientific knowledge, demonstration activities, citizen engagement - illustrating how river restoration can provide economic and social benefits in addition to environmentals gains.
Progress in Year 1
Since kicking off in January 2023, DANUBE4all has made significant progress. The initial phase of scientific and research work has focused on data collection, exploring various actions and options torestore river connectivity, analysing water and biodiversity status, and conducting an economic evaluation of ecosystem services. The first results of these studies will be published shortly.
Our three research or ‘demonstration’ sites at Paradeis Island in the Donau-Auen National Park in Austria, Sződliget inHungary, and the Danube Delta, are central to the ambitions of DANUBE4all. These sites are where our river restoration actions will be focused, with each one presenting a unique set of restoration challenges. Important steps were made across all sites this year and we anticipate significant progress in 2024.
Empowering communities is another important pillar of DANUBE4all's mission. We want to inspire and activate Danube communities to greater awareness of the challenges facing this vital waterway and motivate more action towards its protection and healthy management. Already this year, in collaboration with key actors identified in the region, the project has established the Danube Water Museum Network, initiated the "Blue Danube Travelling Exhibition,"and commenced work on a citizen science toolbox and a Public Lab concept.
Danube4ALL extends cascade funding to regional river restoration projects through the concept of Associated Regions, whereby five regional projects will be fostered with expert guidance and technical assistance. In the last months the regions have been selected, with the announcement of successful projects and activity commencing in 2024. We are really looking forward to what will be happening here!
Thank you for joining us on this journey to unlock the full potential of one of Europe's most vital large rivers. I am very much looking forward to 2024 and to continuing this important work with our project partners towards a better Danube for all of us.
Image : River Lab at IWA / BOKU. Courtesy of BOKU. Learn more about the River Lab.