Hutovo blato – between the past, the present and the future

© Dragan Tomić / Pixabay

Hutovo blato – between the past, the present and the future

October 4, 2020

Hutovo blato is located in the south of Herzegovina, surrounded by a typical karst environment and ambience. It is a place where you can float and enjoy the view of a vast water area with white and yellow water lilies. The presence of numerous birds is breathtaking, especially the presence of truly rare kinds, which were the reason why the whole area became protected. This so-called Pearl of Herzegovina is also outstanding because of the River Krupa. The river does not have its own spring, but is formed of surplus water from Deransko Lake and is considered a European phenomenon since it flows in two different directions. As any other river, Krupa flows from its ˝spring˝ to the mouth, but it also flows from its mouth to the ˝spring˝. The cause of this phenomenon is that the River Neretva overpowers Krupa because of its high-water level and greater water flow.

Hutovo blato used to be the elite hunting area, but nowadays it is a nature park and considered a unique sub-Mediterranean wetland in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is one of the richest bird reserves for waterbirds in Europe.

Nikola Zovko, the manager of the nature park and the head person of Hutovo blato, talks about what this Wetlands of International Importance used to be in the past:

“When I came to Hutovo blato 24 years ago, it was so much more natural and primal. It certainly was even better in the seventies, but there has always been plentiful water and diversity in nature. Besides, there is a great fish and bird stock that should not be taken for granted or ignored. At the time of my arrival here, the Nature Park was in fairly good shape, but there has been a decrease in the number of some bird species. It cannot be stated that the population of a bird species has vanished entirely, but its numbers have been decreasing. This loss has been caused by different things; some may say that it has happened because of the poachers, or that people have been or too much harvesting. But in my opinion, the main reason has been the constant imbalance of the water environment. The main problem is the lack of water, which has prevented the phenomenon of the River Krupa flowing in reverse because the Neretva is not flowing into Hutovo blato at all anymore. The whole thing is happening because Neretva has been changed and tamed by the hydropower plants built on it. I would say that that has been one of the biggest and main problems lately”

This green oasis close to Čapljina has been protected since 1954, when the ornitho-faunist reserve was established. Hutovo blato was included in the List of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971 because of its international importance.

“When I came to Hutovo blato 24 years ago, it was so much more natural and primal. It certainly was even better in the seventies, but there has always been plentiful water and diversity in nature. Besides, there is a great fish and bird stock that should not be taken for granted or ignored. At the time of my arrival here, the Nature Park was in fairly good shape, but there has been a decrease in the number of some bird species. It cannot be stated that the population of a bird species has vanished entirely, but its numbers have been decreasing. This loss has been caused by different things; some may say that it has happened because of the poachers, or that people have been or too much harvesting. But in my opinion, the main reason has been the constant imbalance of the water environment. The main problem is the lack of water, which has prevented the phenomenon of the River Krupa flowing in reverse because the Neretva is not flowing into Hutovo blato at all anymore. The whole thing is happening because Neretva has been changed and tamed by the hydropower plants built on it. I would say that that has been one of the biggest and main problems lately”

© Nikola Zovko

Great importance of Hutovo blato and its ecosystem

Mr. Zovko, the manager of Hutovo blato, who is pleased with all the research and discoveries achieved so far, says:

The research that has been carried out by us in the past ten years has led to quite a few new discoveries about the value of Hutovo blato, its potential and its ecosystem.

Highlighting the importance of Hutovo blato, Mr Zovko affirms:

“This is a very important issue and we have to constantly work on it. We need to work on the consciousness of the people and make them aware of the fact that Hutovo blato is a free water purifier, it keeps the balance of the microclimate and helps to prevent flooding.

I hope that everyone is aware of the fact that when the water levels of the Neretva rise, the surplus of millions of cubic meters of water ends up in Hutovo blato. Thus, this area with our villages does not get flooded, and there are other numerous benefits. It is essential to preserving the vegetation, to keeping our air clean and saving other environmental features important for living. As to the general conditions in Hutovo blato, I may say that I am only partly satisfied. I am glad that we have preserved nature and the environment quite well. By stating this, I refer to the fact that there is no illegal construction taking place near the Nature Park, there are no factories, no pollution or cesspits. The water of the River Krupa is fit for drinking and this is all very good. Still, here are some negative things. We need investments and improvements.

When asked to describe the Nature Park Hutovo blato in the past, nowadays, and in the foreseeable future, Zovko briefly commented:

In the past, it was a beautiful, lovely, magnificent place, just as it is today, unless you get deeper into the concept and theme of it all. I expect that the future of the park will be brighter, and I believe it will shine in its full potential and have the support of the community as a whole.”

The exceptional importance and beauty of Hutovo blato made it a Nature Park in 1995. There are some interesting facts about it; for example – Hutovo blato is a vast area of 7,411 hectares and is located at one of the four routes for the birds that migrate from north and central Europe to Asia and Africa. 

Smiljan Vidić, the mayor of Čapljina, points out that there are different problems concerning the Nature Park Hutovo blato and they should be handled by the competent experts and with care. 

He said:

“There are different issues about it, starting with the lack of educated experts, the lack of money, insufficient advertising, poaching, and insufficient awareness of the environmental issues by the people living in the area. Hutovo blato is a very delicate ecosystem that has to be dealt with professionally and carefully. It is sometimes difficult to find the balance between the use of the tourist potential and preserving the ecosystem. Having more visitors in the park would have a positive impact on tourism in our area – people would use local accommodations and spend money in our town. These may be positive effects for our farmers, too; they would sell more products and there would be more jobs (chefs, waiters, etc.). Nevertheless, the first and foremost thing should be the protection of this fragile ecosystem”

Hutovo blato as a jackpot – an area of its own separated from the inhabited areas nearby

Hutovo blato has always been an important Nature Reserve, and it is unique because it is located further away from the inhabited areas. Dragan Bradvica, the head of the Stolac and Čapljina branch of the Tourist Board of Herzegovina-Neretva County, points out that Hutovo blato needs proper infrastructure and labelling.

He clearly stated:

Raising awareness of the protection of nature, especially in Hutovo blato, has always been the main issue here. This outstanding Nature Reserve is special and needs to be preserved as such. I believe that the main issue here is the infrastructure. For example, there used to be an observation deck on Glavica hill, but it is partly devastated now. The indicators with information about birds were made of wood and they have rotted with years, which is normal. I would recommend that all the Nature Park employees should have the same uniforms and be unified. This is the rule in all Nature Parks and should be done here, too. We are not very good at speaking languages and we have a lack of tourist guides because people migrate elsewhere in search of better living opportunities. Nature Park Hutovo blato has been fully booked in the last couple of weeks! There are some people who have never been here, but COVID-19 and the ban on the border crossing for some have inspired them to look for some new ways of entertainment. The lack of recreation activities pushed them to come here, and they really enjoy being in the park. Our county has got a wonderful possibility for the tourist offerings that may include a four to five-day packet arrangement for the tourists to enjoy not only the beauties of Čapljina but also the nearby places”.

Finally, the visitors will have the chance to see and meet different types of fascinating animals living in Hutovo blato and to enjoy the incredible natural surroundings. Besides, whoever visits the park will wish to go back to this beautiful place of peace, quiet and outstanding greenery.

© Nikola Zovko

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