Rivers and streams provide important ecosystem services both to environment and human society, as they are responsible for provisioning, regulatory, supporting and cultural services. Freshwater ecosystems can provide water for supply and sanitation purposes, industrial and agriculture uses, renewable hydropower generation, recreation and ecotourism. At the same time, they are essential for sustaining riverine plant, animals and micro-organism, water and erosion regulation, and soil purification.
Most large rivers are formed from many tributaries that provide supplying water, biodiversity and ecological components. At the same time, as they flow into the mainstem, they can also introduce contaminants, waste and industrial pollution. For this reason, when a new cleaning and awareness campaign is born, involving both the mainstem and the tributaries it is fundamental.
The Po river with its floodplains is a great ecosystemic and economic resource for Italian population, but today we often see this naturalistic jewel ruined by waste, industrial pollution and anthropization. Making people aware with direct participation is the best solution to fight this growing neglect.
With this purpose in 2018 the Life VisPO – Volunteer initiative for a sustainable Po – project born: 215 volunteers aged between 18 and 30, for 3 years will be working on cleaning and enhancement actions of Po territory and its tributaries in Piemonte. Every volunteer will receive a specific training and will actively participating in all planned project activities.
In Piemonte 12 macro-areas were individuated that cover 40 Sites of Community Importance (SIC), mostly situated on territories of Po tributaries. Sites of Community Importance (SIC), with Special Protection Areas (SPA), are part of Natura 2000, an ecological network of protected areas for the conservation of threatened species and habitats, established under the Directive 92/43/CEE.

Targeted cleaning actions and awareness campaigns are schedule in all the 12 areas.
The same activities will take place in Hungary, in a SIC situated on the bank of Danubio River: the Duna-Ipoly NP areas. There, 35 volunteers will be involved to repeat the same actions planned for the Po river. In June 2019 some Italian volunteers travelled to Hungary, where they participated to some volunteer actions and where they camped on Danubio banks.
Activities were subdivided in four main categories of good practices:
 cleaning up activities in natural ecosystem;
 monitoring of the status of flora and fauna and data collection;
 combination of sport initiatives with environmental sustainability/protection;
 public awareness.
The first group includes targeted cleaning actions that involves private citizens, ESC volunteers and members of local organizations. These actions are carried out on the banks of Po river and other water bodies connected with the Po. This group also includes activities for plastic collection.
The second group of good practices refers to monitoring the status of different water bodies, in particular lakes, and possibly identify and locate alien species. In this case trained volunteers and experts are mostly involved.
The third and the fourth groups of good practices includes activities that can increase the perception and the awareness of people on the importance of healthy fluvial environments for cultural and recreational purposes.

Download Best Practices Manual