EuroNatur Award 2018 goes to Roberto Epple, ERN founder & chairman

Press release from EuroNatur 4 july 2018

2018 EuroNatur Award goes to Roberto Epple, founding President of the European Rivers Network, he has devoted himself for decades to the wild rivers of Europe.

An inspirational river conservationist: Roberto Epple receives the EuroNatur Award in October 2018. © ERN/France

Hydroelectric dams downgrade living river landscapes into a string of species-poor reservoirs. This trend has been resisted with body and soul by Roberto Epple over many years. For this commitment he is being awarded the EuroNatur Award on 10th October 2018.

This native of Switzerland was quick to recognise the importance of intact rivers for man and nature. As early as the 1970s, he was organising small campaigns against the construction of power stations in the Swiss Alps. He drew considerable attention to the issue in his documentary “Resistance on the River“ from 1987, which showed the protests against the construction of a power station on the Danube near Hainburg in Austria.  One of the last big floodplain forests in Europe was designated as a national park as a result of the protest movement. Epple won further acclaim for his commitment for the saving of the Loire in France where he prevented the construction of four large dams and achieved the dismantling of two more.

“The commitment of Roberto Epple to Central Europe’s river landscapes serves as an inspiration for the campaigns being waged by EuroNatur and its partner organisations against the hydroelectric power lobby in the Balkans,” said EuroNatur President, Christel Schroeder, supporting the choice of this year’s prize winner. With this award, Epple joins the ranks of public figures such as Klaus Töpfer, Prince Charles and the American best-selling author Jonathan Franzen. All have received the EuroNatur Award for their exemplary commitment to the European natural heritage.

Again and again, Roberto Epple’s creative campaigns have succeeded in raising public awareness of river conservation. He it was, for example, who initiated the Big Jump, in which people from all over Europe gather on the banks of their rivers, and all go for a swim at the same time. With this collective jump into the water, young and old celebrate European River Swimming Day, and highlight the need for clean rivers, unspoilt by development. On Sunday 8th July at 3pm Central European Time, this event will be again taking place in numerous locations throughout Europe.

Background Information:

  • EuroNatur Award: Former prize-winners include Jonathan Franzen, Dr. Luc Hoffmann, Michail Gorbatschow, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Mario F. Broggi and Gudrun Steinacker. The EuroNatur Award carries no monetary reward, and is awarded for outstanding contributions to nature conservation. The 2018 EuroNatur Award will be presented to Roberto Epple on Wednesday 10th October 2018 at 17.00 on the island of Mainau on Lake Constance.
  • Danube, Elbe, Loire, Ebro and Rhine are just some of the rivers which have featured in Roberto Epple’s life, rivers for which this hydrobiologist, born in St. Gallen in 1945, has fought numerous campaigns to preserve them  in their natural state. His first experiences in the area of communication and the environment were gained in international chemical and textile companies. The passionate defence by many people of the Danube floodplain forests near Hainburg in the 1980’s galvanised this native of Switzerland. Since 1993 Epple has been president of the European Rivers Network (ERN), a network of European environmental and conservation organisations which campaign for the preservation of European rivers.
  • Big Jump: The European River Bathing Day, also known as the Big Jump, started with the Elbe Bathing Day, which Roberto Epple launched in 2002 with the organisation Environmental Action Germany (DUH). Since 2005, Epple has organised the Europe-wide River Bathing Day with the ERN. The goal of the River Bathing campaign is to raise public awareness of the need for protecting waterways, particularly in the framework of the EU Water Framework Directive.
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