Substituting a working space, laboratory with a nature laboratory - Canyon of Hrčavka River at National Park Sutjeska for botanist Mr. Đorđije Milanović, seems to be a dream job.
Mr. Milanović, professor at University of Banja Luka, and a local from the National Park Sutjeska understands well the need for joint actions of local community and NP Sutjeska management, with the aim of achieving sustainable tourism development in protected area.
How did you start working and researching NP Sutjeska?
Being a local admirer of the NP Sutjeska, and having a career as botanist I have been researching NP Sutjeska area for over a decade. During last year WWF's project "Protected areas for nature and people" supported research of flora, fauna and fungi of the main watercourses in the NP Sutjeska. Overview of the most important species was for the first time recorded along the Sutjeska and Hrcavka rivers. The results of the research were published in the publication entitled "NP Sutjeska - dead capital or nature laboratory". Our research will then continue with the emphasis on wildlife mountain lakes, their condition and prospects. Since the wildlife is poorly researched in NP Sutjeska, and throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, these data have first-class scientific significance and constitute the cornerstone for all subsequent studies of biodiversity of the park and the surrounding area.
In your opinion, how can a local community of NP Sutjeska benefit from the conducted research?
Local community still has very little information and knowledge on the abundance of wildlife they are living within. Furthermore the models for sustainable development are still to be discovered by the community.
Therefore through previously mentioned WWF’s project the local community and NP Sutjeska management will have an opportunity to broaden their knowledge and raise the awareness on the richness and conservation significance of this protected area. Furthermore they will jointly learn about possibilities for sustainable tourism development in protected areas. One such potential initiative is under a process of development – cannoning in Hrčavka River as a sustainable tourism product.
Cannoning – Hrčavka River
End of June 2016, an expedition of cannoning guides from Cannoning Association of Slovenia, local Mountain Rescue Club Wolf representative, WWF colleagues and myself explored the canyon of Hrčavka and possibilities for turning this cannon in a tourism product.
According to cannoning expert guide Mr. Samo Leštan, observations: “Hrčavka canyon enables a visitor to go down the rocky river areas, jump over and into the waterfalls, go down the big rocks by using ropes, and hike through some amazing NP Sutjeska forests. This kind of activity might sound like a big challenge, however if the parts of the canyon are selected and adjusted properly, the canyon can easily become tourist-friendly experience. Well educated and experienced guides need to be there to make sure tourists are safe and are enjoying the nature at its fullest.”
Therefore NP Sutjeska together with Cannoning Association of Slovenia and all relevant participants will organize a training for cannoning guides at NP Sutjeska for locals. Through cooperation with NP Sutjeska, Mountain Rescue Club, local community, and later on travel agencies further steps will be taken in developing a sustainable tourism product Cannoning Hrčavka River.
What is the “special ingredient” that enables that NP Sutjeska is seen as a potential benefit to local community to continue living there?
The “special ingredient” would be inclusion of local community in activities of NP Sutjeska. Very often the NP is perceived by local community as a separate party, which is making the lives of locals challenging, by implying all “unnecessary” rules. On the other hand NP for many years has been existing on its own. However, for NP Sutjeska to have a sustainable existence it needs its local community to participate and jointly care about the protected area. And the local community needs sustainable and environmentally friendly jobs in order to continue living in the NP. With this in mind a committee council is under a development, where NP representatives and local community on regular basis communicate and work jointly on developing sustainable and environmentally friendly initiatives, as well as work on addressing relevant policies. As a first try, pilot initiative Hrčavka cannoning is under a process of development, which should set an example for future green businesses.
What are your hopes for this protected area?
I am personally looking forward to seeing a progress with NP Sutjeska, in which it is possible to live and work together in harmony with nature.
Nela Slezak, WWF Adria