The Ljubljanica River
The Ljubljanica River features an extensive karstic and wetland basin and numerous archaeological finds that place it among the world’s sites of special interest. One of the richest and at the same time most endangered archaeological sites was declared a cultural monument of national importance in 2003 and is also protected as natural assets of national importance. The Ljubljanica River project was conceived in 2014-2016 by the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana in collaboration with the Vrhnika municipality, Ljubljana's Biotechnical Faculty as well as domestic and foreign experts. It was co-financed by EEA Grants. The project focused on underwater research, the conservation of a dugout boat from the 2nd century BC, remedial work on the riverbanks and monitoring, among other things. It culminated with the Ljubljanica River Exhibition in the town of Vrhnika, which is dedicated to the natural and cultural heritage of the river and its surroundings. The fundamental project purpose was to bring the extraordinary development potential of the spatial features and the cultural and natural heritage face to face with economic and environmental decline, which reduces the quality of life and contributes to the exclusion of local residents, especially young people. There are more than 300 cultural heritage units registered in the area of the Municipality of Vrhnika alone but, at the same time, the area is decline due to the collapse of major industrial operations and today’s environmentally risky industries. The European Union recognized the great development potential of cultural heritage, and declared 2018 the European Year of Cultural Heritage, while 2018 and 2019 will involve special attention focused on cultural tourism, which represents one of the fundamental economic sectors on a global scale. The mass visiting of world attractions, a phenomenon which has been growing rapidly in recent years, brings with it the danger of a lower quality of life for local residents and has already been threatening monuments of natural and cultural heritage. New projects are thus being oriented towards sustainable forms of development that include integrated planning and connecting on the macro-regional level. At the same time, they are building on the revitalization of degraded areas, which are a consequence of diffuse and unsystematic spatial planning, the collapse of major industrial operations, neglect of historical cities and village cores, sources of environmental pollution. The pronouncement of the social importance of heritage, of the need to preserve it for the public good and of the development potentials in the scientific, cultural, educational and economic fields, is reflected in ensuring the public interest and observing a participatory approach in its management. The project goes beyond the local boundaries and works actively in including parties from civil society. The main emphasis is on focusing on the primary satisfaction of the needs of local residents who, in view of the high quality of life and a sense of belonging to the local environment, are becoming the main generators of development. The involvement of special-interest groups in co-designing development plans ensures sustainable impacts on the environment, in the development of economic, cultural and other social activities, the revival of old traditions and crafts and the revitalization of abandoned industrial and residential areas. The Ljubljanica River project has received a UNESCO label Best Practices related to Underwater Cultural Heritage on 21 June 2019 as part of the seventh conference of signatories to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in Paris.

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