Recently, the Slovene government has stopped the preparation of the spatial plan for a hydroelectric powerplant on Mura river. As this will keep one of the last stretches of the river free-flowing, this decision was a big victory for nature conservation. The area is very important for biodiversity and is a part of Natura 2000 network, as well as a core area of a planned UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Moreover, the Lower Mura Valley in Austria has just been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This reserve lies just upstream of the area of the previously planned dams, on the border with Slovenia.
Please read Why rivers should be wild, not dammed
The Government stopped the planning because the environmental report showed that the hydroelectric powerplants would inevitably cause significant damage to the environment. However, this is but the first step to preventing the construction of hydroelectric powerplants on Mura. To continue following their coalition plan, the government should also take away the construction consession. Nevertheless, this is an important first step, since the debate about damming Mura has already been active for 15 years. In 2016, a campaign “Save Mura” has gathered over 80,000 signatures for a petition against the construction of the powerplants.
Mura is the last large free-flowing river in Slovenia and together with Danube and Drava rivers, the area is also called “the Amazon of Europe”. That’s because the landscape is a mosaic of floodplain forests, gravel banks and river arms. This mosaic provides habitat for rare animals such as black stork, kingfisher and sand martin. Furthermore, the river has the highest fish biodiversity in all of Slovenia. Out of all fish species there, 70% them are on IUCN Red List. Additionally, the river also provides high quality drinking water for 57 000 people. Thus, not building the powerplant is beneficial both for nature and for the local residents.
The Mura has its source close to the main office of the European Wilderness Society. Last year, members of the team attended the opening of a new exhibition about the source of the Mura. This exhibition also went into details about the special river. Additionally, it explains the history, geology, biodiversity and culture of the Mura.
Free-flowing rivers also have a unique ecological character. Therefore, at European Wilderness Society, we are striving to preserve the last such wild rivers through our WILDRiver label. Examples of WILDRivers in Europe include Olanga WILDRiver in Russia, Dyje WILDRiver in Czechia and Thaya WILDRiver in Austria, among others. To learn more about WILDRivers, please visit our European Wilderness Network webpage.