In addition to widely-known natural features, southwest Serbia also hides many river pearls, among which the most valuable is the Veliki Rzav River. This is supported by the results of scientific research conducted by the Institute for Nature Protection of Serbia in cooperation with the Ecological Association Rzav over the past four years. Results of the study were published recently on the official website of the Ministry of the Environment, initiating the process of establishing the Veliki Rzav River Special Nature Reserve.
Recognizing the exceptional natural values of the Veliki Rzav River and its importance for local communities, the Ecological Association Rzav, in partnership with WWF Adria and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) launched an initiative for the protection of this river.
"Research that we conducted together with the Institute for Nature Protection of Serbia and the Faculty of Natural Sciences from Kragujevac indicates that this is an area of incredible natural beauty and great biological and geological diversity. We identified more than 450 different plant and animal species, and 132 species of algae in the proposed protected area. Due to its exceptional international and national importance, the Ministry initiated the procedure for the protection of this area as a category I protected area, which according to the Decree on the Ecological Network represents a potential Natura 2000 area", revealed Nataša Milivojević, Director of the Ecological Association Rzav.
In addition to vast natural heritage, the area along the Veliki Rzav River boasts a rich cultural heritage, including 11 archaeological sites that have yet to be explored.
"By protecting the Veliki Rzav River, we want to preserve its natural, cultural, and historical values, prevent river degradation, as well as stop all unfavorable changes in hydrological regimes. Considering all challenges, we believe that this protection can encourage nature-positive sustainable development of southwest Serbia”, said Milivojević.
Veliki Rzav River Special Nature Reserve will cover an area of 4857.56 hectares and will have second and third category protection zones. This will enable sustainable use of the space and development in accordance with nature conservation goals. According to the Law on Nature Protection, this area is considered protected from the day of publication on the website of the Ministry of Environment.
“Western Balkans is home to some of the last wild rivers in Europe. That is why we are happy that we are one step closer to declaring the Veliki Rzav River Special Nature Reserve, which represents a win for nature protection in Serbia, but also a development opportunity for local communities. Official protection is the first step in the long-term sustainable management of this area. We are dedicated to continuing good cooperation with all stakeholders, encouraging active involvement of local communities in the planning and management of this protected area", emphasized Igor Vejnović, Director for Strategic Initiatives at The Nature Conservancy.
The initiative for the protection of the Veliki Rzav River is part of the campaign for the protection of rivers of Southeast Europe, launched by The Nature Conservancy in partnership with organizations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Together, we want to highlight and protect the unique river treasures of our region, whose importance exceeds the borders of individual countries. By protecting our rivers, we are creating new development opportunities and ensuring long-term benefits for people and nature.
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