Sponsored by Coca-Cola Europe, the €25,000 prize celebrates successful approaches that have overcome the challenges to river restoration, ecosystem health, water quality and climate change within the social and political context of the European continent.
In collaboration with the Styrian Government (Department 14 – Water Management, Resources and Sustainability) freiland Environmental Consulting Civil Engineers has been working to restore priority stretches of over 22km of the River Mur, which has been badly degraded by widespread development since the late 19th century. Since 1997, extensive work has been done to re-establish the natural conditions of the river and restore natural habitats for the many species that rely on the river and surrounding environment.
Representatives from the River Mur accepted the award in front of an audience of European river professionals at the Riverprize Gala Dinner at Vienna City Hall on Tuesday 28 October. The dinner was held in conjunction with 6th European River Restoration Conference, where all finalists were given the opprtunity to showcase their decades of work.
"Winning the Riverprize is a great achievement for the team, and an affirmation for river restoration work on the River Mur in recent years. We hope that the Riverprize will serve as a contribution to improve public awareness of our river," said a River Mur representative.
The River Mur rises in the Austrian Eastern Alps and flows into the Drava River in Croatia. Home to the second largest alluvial forest in Austria, the river basin area comprises one of Europe´s most species-rich habitats. Works to restore this river have benefited both the environment and the communities in the area, with additional activities including increased flood protection and the creation of leisure and nature activities for the local residents.
Mr Bart Fokkens, Chair of the European Riverprize judging panel, said that the Mur River restoration was very well planned, implemented with intensive public participation, stakeholder engagement and transboundary cooperation from the very beginning.
“The project performance shows a high level of integration, going far beyond ecological restoration and demonstrating innovation with respect to land, land use planning and sustainable land management. This is the result of a remarkable combination of persistent, creative and professional behavior of the river planners and managers withstanding the special circumstances," said Mr Fokkens.
The River Mur will now automatically qualify for stage two of the Thiess International Riverprize in 2015.
The other finalists in the 2014 European Riverprize were two different projects from the Danube River Basin. The first, ICPDR-observer DANUBEPARKS, involves the development of a network of Danube protected areas which look after the most valuable sites in a common and coherent ecosystem. The second involves restoration activities on the 172km stretch of the Danube running through Slovakia, rehabilitating the river and wetlands which were degraded as a result of man-made interventions in the river.
The ICPDR, which helped to establish the European Riverprize last year, congratulates the three finalists and in particular the winning team behind the River Mur and keeps its fingers crossed for the 2015 Thiess International Riverprize.