“If we don't understand why nature protection matters, it's hard to assume our kids will care about it. That's why I've applied for the WWF Nature Academy – I want to learn, to act, to spread the word, to protect” said one of the teachers involved in the WWF Academy for Nature in Serbia. WWF and protected areas managers are striving to create a network which is both self-sustainable, relevant and demonstrates benefits to people. Sonja Badjura, WWF education officer and leader of the Academy, is more than happy with the success of the venture. “We reach the youngest members of the community and their teachers and parents. A teacher and a student from 10 schools are trained to become ambassadors of five protected areas included in a regional project. Throughout the school year participants learn about ecological footprints, active citizenship, project management and media relations. The team spirit is wonderful.” “We should spend more time outside, nature is the best classroom”, a student added, while the teacher concluded: “The Academy has reminded me how beautiful and playful teaching can be”.
Throughout the Mediterranean very different actions are required to face the challenge of threats to water ecosystems. In North Africa a scarcity of water is compounded by climate change. The MedWet Civil Society Network, 18 NGOs from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, supported by WWF, are working together to promote the conservation and wise use of priority North African wetlands. WWF played an important role in establishing the world wetland city accreditation, an idea born in the small village of Ghar El Melah lagoon and promoted at various wetland events, before being approved by Ramsar. The World Wetland City label promotes regional and international co-operation, and brings sustainable benefits to local people. And in Morocco, after many years of collaboration with the Sebou Basin Agency, we are finally seeing the concept of ecological-flow being mainstreamed in the Agency’s plans for water allocation.
Imagine crystal streams, wild rivers, gorges, spectacular waterfalls and majestic forests. Then picture the effect that dams and hydropower plants will have on this breathtaking natural beauty. From Slovenia to Albania more than 2,700 hydropower projects are planned for the near future, with 113 dams in national parks. But what if we could halt this dam tsunami by bringing together local people, NGOs and policy makers to protect Balkan rivers? This is what WWF Adria, with other environmental NGOs, has achieved with a massive campaign, culminating in the Balkan Rivers Tour. Now in its third year, the Tour gathers hundreds of kayakers and their supporters who journey along 23 rivers in 6 countries, sending a powerful message to governments and decision makers. The Tour, and WWF’s conservation and policy activities, have contributed to some great results: a reassessment of hydropower plants on the Soca river in Slovenia, the Montenegrin Government adopted e-flow regulation and reevaluated plans for the Morača hydropower project, the Albanian Prime Minister is considering a moratorium on dams. Along with European warnings to several Balkan governments on the need to better integrate nature and water directives in hydropower planning and development, there is renewed hope that the most valuable rivers of Europe will remain wild and free.
"The Balkan Rivers Tour was a crazy grass roots idea that grew into the biggest European river conservation action just in 6 months because we joined forces at all levels. Fighting for free flowing rivers is our common goal no matter if we are a small or big NGO, an expert limnologist or just a kayaker. All it takes is an open mind and true passion. WWF Adria believed in our idea from the start and proved that big things can be done with great deal of determination and creative approach. Together we did – and more important we are still doing – great things to protect these amazing rivers."Rok Rozman, Slovenian Olympic athlete and founder of Leeway Collective, leader of the Balkan Rivers Tour.