The Strategic Environmental Assessment needs to be used to evaluate cumulative impacts of all planned interventions of the river, and to consider different alternatives to achieve the desired outcome (more goods shifted to ships).
1) Plan navigation on the Danube by including not only economic, but also environmental and social aspects
In order to establish an ecologically sound and sustainable navigation system, it is essential to develop a comprehensive ‘Sustainable Navigation Plan’ for transport along the “EU axis 18”, i.e. Danube and Rhine. It should include inter-modal aspects, river information systems and fleet modernisation, and strike a fair balance between ecological, transport, and socio-economic needs. This holistic approach has to be applied before individual projects are planned locally.
2) Move away from salami tactis and use Strategic Environmental Assessment
3) Plan navigation in a way it does not undermine other uses of the river
A progressive EU law – Water Framework Directive – provides good framework for an overall basin-scale planning, and for ensuring that the river use does not come at a cost of the river ecosystem. However, now many navigation infrastructure projects are planned without due respect to the requirements of this water law. This has to change: navigation plans need to be much better integrated with implementation of this directive.
4) Include ecological compensation measures into project planning
Sometimes new innovative approaches can compensate for existing hydraulic river constructions through restoration and compensation measures. Such measures aim to reactivate natural dynamic processes and features of the river (such as side channels, floodplains, erosion and sedimentation processes) in a controlled manner. Some examples are opening of side channels, removing shore reinforcements and obsolete dams, and renaturalising river sections that are not problematic for inland navigation. Such compensation measures should be explored, and implemented alongside navigation projects where suitable.