A new environmental alliance recently published a manifesto urging the Tyrolean state government to preserve a unique network of glacial wild rivers in East Tyrol as several hydropower projects are currently planned. The text, co-signed by the European Anglers Alliance, campaigns for the establishment of a new nature reserve and ambitious naturalisation and species protection measures.
Already threatened by several structures which led to dramatic collapses for some fish stocks, the whole Isel basin will be further damaged if seven hydropower plants become a reality. They will block the main river with barriers, disrupt fish migrations and jeopardise biodiversity.
The Isel and its tributary rivers Kalserbach, Tauernbach and Schwarzach form a rare network of wild rivers in the Austrian Alps. These rivers are a haven for many endangered and plant species such as common sandpiper and German tamarisk. “It is one of the last places where we can see how natural, glacier-shaped Alpine rivers function”, said professor Dr. Susanne Muhar from the University of Nature Resources and Applied Life Sciences.
As the largest-free flowing river in Austria, the Isel and its tributaries bring many benefits to local communities, from recreational fisheries to nature-oriented tourism. It is also of international importance for science. “If we obstruct our rivers, we obstruct our future” said Renate Hölzl, Chairwoman of the Association for the Protection of the Recreational Landscape of East Tyrol (VEO).
Initiated by WWF Austria and the VEO, the Isel Manifesto encompasses several measures to upgrade the insufficient Natura 2000 protection established for this site in 2015. Most notably, it calls for the construction of power plants to be stopped and for the whole area to be designated as a new nature reserve preserved through a sound protected area management plan.
The manifesto for the protection of the East Tyrolean glacial rivers was signed by 41 organisations from the fields of environment, fisheries and whitewater sports, but also by several companies from the private sector and ten individuals from academia and civil society. Anglers from all across Europe feel connected to East Tyrolean communities in the common fight for preserved and protected rivers.