New Danube shipping routes ecologically and economically dangerous says WWF



Posted on 31 January 2002  | 
Vienna, Austria - New shipping plans for the Danube River are ecologically dangerous, economically unsound and must be halted immediately according to a new report issued today by WWF, the conservation organization. The WWF report, Waterway Transport on Europe's Lifeline, the Danube, shows that the various plans that are being proposed for shipping and navigation along the Danube will damage vital wetland ecosystems all along the river. Some significant threats include even greater pressure on species such as sturgeon and beavers, a decrease in the availability of drinking water, and increased levels of chemicals in the river. At the same time, the WWF report underlines that the plans take no account of current economic trends related to transport within Europe and hence do not make economic sense either. "The new projects are clearly the largest threat to the last few remaining natural areas in this part of Europe," said Philip Weller, Director of WWF's Danube Carpathian Programme. "WWF is not against shipping, but we are against those projects which make neither economic nor ecological sense." Ecological damage could be averted if the plans, developed by bodies including the European Commission, national governments bordering the Danube, and the Budapest-based inter-governmental Danube Commission, had taken account of current economic and technical trends. The WWF report shows that the plans are based on outdated technical arguments and that ecologically compatible river navigation is possible on Europe's major rivers, without the need for massive building, dredging, or river straightening works. At the same time, new ship-building technologies and information and communication systems can increase the productivity of inland navigation and ensure that it is competitive with the road transport industry. The plans for the Danube are not only against common sense, but they also conflict with national, international and EU nature protection regulations, and directly contradict recent commitments in the region. Regional commitment to protect the Danube peaked in April 2001 with the WWF-organized Summit on Environment and Sustainable Development in the Carpathian and Danube Region in Bucharest, Romania. There, the UK's Prince Philip and Presidents from nine countries in the region adopted a joint Declaration expressing their support for rehabilitating the Danube. "Experiences with Europe's Rhine River prove that an intelligent shift is possible," says Helmut Hiess, a key contributor to the report. "In addition, the Rhine, with far heavier water transport than the Danube, has a minimum depth of 2.1 metres; the proposed depth for the Danube is 3.2 metres. The numbers do not add up; in fact they reflect the lack of logic behind these plans." For more information: Paul Csagoly Communications Manager, WWF Danube Carpathian Programme Office tel: +36 30 250 5869 Lisa Hadeed Communications Manager, WWF Living Waters Programme tel: +41 22 364 9030 email: lhadeed@wwfint.org Notes to Editors: • A B-roll showing biodiversity around the river, dams, general shots of the Danube is available from Paul Csagoly (tel: +36 30 250 5869, email: pc@wwf.at) • More About the Danube The Danube is an international waterway running 2,414 km from Bavaria to the Danube Delta. It is part of the Rhine-Main-Danube link between the North Sea and Black Sea. The Danube River Basin is the most international river basin in the world, draining the lands of 17 countries and home to 80 million people. Some 20 million people depend directly on the basin as a source of clean drinking water.

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