In many parts of Austria, summertime is festival time. Besides the traditional range of classical events in our country, including theatre performances and music concerts, there are meanwhile also a number of summer-opening initiatives related to water. They are intended to provide fun and entertainment for kids, but also raise awareness of the importance of water and the need to protect our aquatic ecosystems. Many of these activities are organised under the umbrella of the regional "Danube Day" initiative, which is celebrated with great enthusiasm especially in Vienna, or in the framework of national events.
Since its first launch 11 years ago, the Danube Day has been traditionally held on 29th June, also in Austria, and - the name says it all - is dedicated to Europe's second-largest river, to its tributaries and to the water cycle in general. It looks at the Danube's role as a living and recreational environment, an ecosystem as well as a place of cultural and economic activity - the latter also in terms of waterway transport for passengers and freight.
This year, the Danube Day activities for schoolkids already reached their climax on 25th June with a big party in the main courtyard of Vienna's Museumsquartier (MQ), featuring great entertainment, games and interesting facts.
The event was sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW), the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit) and via donau - Österreichische Wasserstraßen-Gesellschaft m.b.H., the Government of Upper Austria, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) as well as Vienna's municipal departments related to water (Vienna Water Works/MD 31 and Water Management/MD 45) and supported by numerous other organisations, institutions, associations, Verbund, the Port of Vienna and the Donauauen National Park.
Active engagement of 800 schoolkids
Under this year's motto "Get active!" the Danube Day organisers offered a diverse and highly interactive programme, which also served to raise awareness that we all have it in our hands to help protect our water resources. Two Austrian ministers, Environment Minister Andrä Rupprechter and Infrastructure Minister Alois Stöger, who were joined by Vienna's Environment City Councillor Ulli Sima, personally spoke to the kids and spread this message. After all, children need to be made aware from a young age that our natural resources and environment deserve protection. In light of 800 participating schoolchildren, we can rest assured that sooner or later some plants will grow from the seeds!
The main attractions of the Danube Day 2015 were: a "water lab" for experimenting with water; a "do-it-yourself" flood protection wall; a "rescue-ring-throwing" agility test; a touch & feel discovery of the Danube; and a live demonstration by the water protection police to see what's on a patrol boat.
Other interesting features included a riddle rally, a climbing tower, a paint & craft creativity game, an aquarium with live fish from the Danube, a photo session with Danube creatures, and a glance through the microscope. With this summer's first heatwave on the horizon, it was no surprise that many kids enjoyed the boat game in the large MQ pool and flocked to MD 45's water bar in large numbers for a glass of cool, fresh spring water.
This year's Danube Day was a "green event" in Vienna
On Danube Day, environmental protection is a top priority. The event in Vienna was therefore organised in accordance with green standards and fulfilled all relevant criteria to be awarded the Austrian Ecolabel for "green events". The organisers also received a certification from the City of Vienna to label the Danube Day an "eco-event". In the announcement for the event, people were asked to join a "reuse bottle campaign" and bring their own drinks in reuse bottles. Five people were selected from the participants in a lucky draw and awarded a small prize. The team of MD 45 was present with a booth and informed about the benefits of tap water over bottled water.
The Danube Day was also a showcase of measures taken in recent years for improving the ecosystem and the water status of the Austrian Danube. Examples include the reconnection of old river arms, the removal of "hard" rock revetments along the riverbanks, and the installation of fish migration aids at the hydropower stations.
The main legal framework for taking all these measures is set by the Danube River Protection Convention and the EU Water Framework Directive. They have been signed by almost all Danube countries as well as the European Commission. The activities are coordinated by the International Convention for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) with its head office in Vienna.