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Save the Blue Heart of Europe

Sadly some of the most prevailing natural wonders of our world no longer make for pretty viewing… at all. Think of the bleached coral of the mighty Great Barrier Reef or the sight of flocks of sea birds perversely tar and feathered by the BP oil spill - it can be difficult when faced with those harsh realities to remain hopeful.

However, at Illustrate we're aware of the big impacts that groups of people, big or small, can achieve when there’s a shared common goal and a healthy dose of determination. We want to be able to use our platform to spread awareness, even at the smallest scale to help better our planet. Regardless of company size, turnover or global reach, we want to be part of the change we want to see happen across the world. This means that an issue or cause is brought to our attention we want to share it with the Illustrate family and get the wheels of change turning.

Baalkin river - Save the Blue Heart of Europe, Illustrate Sustainability
 Why is it important?
Whilst not as famous or vast as the Amazon or Congo river systems the nearly 40,000 km of waterways on the Balkan Peninsula are Europe's very own crown jewel - its Blue Heart. In fact it is probably the single most important hot spot for biodiversity left in Europe.
It boasts:
  • 70% of all endangered mollusc species in Europe
  • 30% of its rivers are in a 'Pristine' state
  • At least 69 species of fish are endemic to the region
  • Only place in the world where the Danube Salmon can still be found
  • Biodiversity so rich that new species are still being discovered there
  • The Balkan region's largest cat, the Balkan Lynx, calls the alluvial forest around the rivers it's home, it is critically endangered with only roughly 50 left - can they survive the destruction of their home?
Baalkin river - Save the Blue Heart of Europe, Illustrate Sustainability
How is it under threat?

All of this; the pristine rivers, the endemic species, the mollusc's and the surrounding flora are under a severe and imminent threat - reports from the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign suggest that as many as 2,796 hydro power plants are set to be built in the region over the next few years. To make matters worse, 3/4 of the endangered species in the region are considered to be highly vulnerable to dam construction.

 Expert reports, such as those conducted by EuroNatur and RiverWatch (the NGO's responsible for the campaign) suggest that the development of existing hydropower plants along with investment in the solar industry actually represents a more cost effective method for the Balkan countries to meet their energy demands in a sustainable way. Those responsible for the campaign understand the desire to harness such an abundant natural resource for energy, particularly as we all know the need for greater investment in renewable sources of power, but the level of development suggested would be disastrous for necessary and unique biodiversity. The Blue Heart of Europe campaign is aimed at four specific regions; the Vjosa River in Albania, the Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia, the Sava River in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia, as well as the rivers of Bosnia & Herzegovina which they are aiming to keep completely dam free.  All the campaign is seeking to achieve is a commitment for legislators and companies to take a holistic and reasonable approach to where they construct the hydropower plants they need.

Baalkin river - Save the Blue Heart of Europe, Illustrate Sustainability What can I do?

So know you know why something needs to be done, how do you actually help?!

 Head over to the Save the Blue Heart of Europe website (https://balkanrivers.net/en) to check out the latest news on what they're doing (after all they're the experts, we're just the messenger) and dig deeper into what's under threat and why. You can even donate through their page if your heart has been set alight by this issue. The Blue Heart of Europe run petitions and are continuously lobbying the EU on this issue and are  even being hosted for a specific summit on the issue on the 27th June, so the best you can do right now, on top of donating, is spread the word!

- Illustrate Sustainability

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