The Danube is one of the most international river systems in Europe, connecting 83 million people. On an over 2,700-km-long downstream journey from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, the river flows through as many as ten countries with highly diverse social, economic and ecological backgrounds, exerting a considerable influence on the latter.
“People need to remain aware of these important coherencies; this is why in 2004, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Danube River Protection Convention, the Danube Day was founded,” says Environment Minister Josef Pröll. Since its very foundation, every year on 29th June people in the entire river basin get together and organise various activities to demonstrate how much they care about protecting the Danube River. Young people are a crucial target group, and so a special contest – the Danube Art Master– was created for them.
The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) is the initiator of the Danube Day. It works together closely with government and city council authorities in the relevant states to ensure that the idea is implemented in practice.
In Austria, these are the Ministry of Life (Water Division), the Vienna City Council, and the Vienna Waterworks; their vital input radiates outward to all other countries in the Danube Basin. The yearly motto, corporate design and information material related to the event is developed in Austria and subsequently put at the disposal of other countries in the Danube Basin.
After two events both held in Vienna (one in 2004 on a Danube Bridge, and one in 2005 in the Museum Quarter), the Danube Day in 2006 was organised under the German motto “Donau:Lebenswelten”, reflecting the perception of the river as a living environment. In Austria, the prime goal was to increase awareness of the issue among young people.
The kids were taken on scenic expeditions around the Donau Auen National Park and were invited to join the Danube Art Master contest, thus giving them ample opportunity to learn more about the plant and animal species native to the river basin. Great interest was displayed in a poster with detachable stickers of different fish species which all have their natural habitats in the Danube Basin.
The relevant activities proved a great success: as many as 250 kids participated in the National Park boat expeditions. 9,500 fish sticker posters and 9,000 information brochures were handed out. And the newly designed Danube Day website counted as many as 8,500 visitors!
The event organisers were particularly interested in the outcome of a Danube student survey conducted among 2,000 young people from Upper Austria, Lower Austria and Vienna. It became clear that what young people mostly want is “clean Danube water”, and that they like to spend their leisure time on its river banks. The large number of participants in this year’s Danube Day activities reveals how much people can be motivated when it comes to showing commitment towards the Danube, which after all is Austria’s biggest stream of life.
(Source: aqua press Int. 3/2006)