Navigation on the Danube

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Save the living river!
© WWF DCP

Living river or transport corridor?

River engineering projects put forward by national governments and supported by the European Union could transform our living river into little more than a shipping canal. Current plans for developing navigation on the Danube disregard the river's many other uses and benefits. Navigation has been and always will be one of the main human uses of the Danube River and its many tributaries, but it is not the only one.

Over 1,000 kilometers of the Danube could be artificially deepened, regulated, or dammed, destroying many of Europe’s last great river landscapes and remaining wetland areas. 

The projects are being promoted by the European Union as part of  "Corridor VII" of the Trans-European Network of Transportation as well as by national Ministries of Transportation and dredging interests.

Threatened by these developments are the last free-flowing stretches of the Upper Danube, including the Straubing-Vilshofen section in Germany and the Austrian section east of Vienna; the exceptionally rich wetlands along the Hungarian, Croatian, and Serbian stretches on the Middle Danube; as well as the extremely valuable lower part of the river along the Romania-Bulgarian common border and the Romanian section from Calarasi to Braila. In the Danube Delta, the Ukrainian Ministry of Transport has been developing the Bystroye Canal through the core zone of the spectacular Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve.

A report, the "Danube River Basin Analysis 2004", developed by the Vienna-based International Convention for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) and 13 Danube countries, revealed in March 2005 that navigation has regrettably been one of the biggest causes of environmental degradation on the Danube, if not the biggest, mainly from activities that deepened, dammed or straightened the river. The report further warns that a number of future navigation projects could cause further environmental damage to the Danube, especially the Danube's last free-flowing (non-dammed) sections. This warning was first publicly announced in January 2002 by WWF with its own report, "Waterway Transport on Europe's Lifeline, the Danube", which received global media attention.

At stake is the Danube as a living river, including not only its spectacular natural values, but also a multitude of benefits and services on which people depend, such as drinking water resources, natural flood retention areas, fishing, tourism and recreation.

The Danube must remain a living river, and not be transformed into a transport corridor.

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