Eastern European governments pledge to improve Danube and encourage sustainable development

The leaders of nine East European nations and government representatives of six other nations have agreed to protect the environment of the Danube basin and encourage sustainable development at a summit organised by the Romanian government and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

In an address to regional leaders and government representatives and the Duke of Edinburgh, WWF’s President, on 30 April, President Ion Iliescu of Romania spoke of the predicament of the Danube and called on both international and local assistance to alleviate problems caused. “Because of neglect and lack of proper coordination, the Danube is now by far the largest contributor to the heavy pollution of the Black Sea, which is reaching a catastrophic point,” said Iliescu.

“Unprocessed urban and industrial waste discharges, plus organic nutrients washed down through irrigation systems either directly into the river or through its tributaries have created serious threats to safe drinking water supply downstream and to the very survival of rare species of wildlife, including sturgeon,” he continued. “Unique wetlands ecosystems, in particular the Danube delta, require urgent attention through medium and long term coordinated action. Some of the daunting problems concerning the rational use, ecological rehabilitation and adequate protection of the Danube go way beyond the possibilities of individual countries, no matter how much goodwill they show and how large the resources they are prepared to set aside for that purpose.”

“Water pollution, flood control and other issues with a significant environmental impact are regional in nature and they have to be addressed at a regional level with adequate international guidance and support,” Iliescu added.

In a final joint declaration, the leaders agreed to work together to encourage sustainable development through international, regional and local initiatives. There will now be joint assessments of development policies ensuring the integration of environmental considerations in economic and social development “to prevent harmful effects in the cost-effective way in order to enhance the impact of market-driven solutions”, the agreement said.

To achieve environmental objectives, particularly 1992’s Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, help from the private sector and NGOs would be enlisted, delegates agreed. The environmental impact of industry, agriculture, forestry, rural development, cultural heritage, energy, mining and transport on the Carpathian region are to be individually assessed and leaders agreed to cooperate more in sharing technology.

On the 2,800 km-long (1,750 mile-long) Danube, which is the source of drinking water for up to ten million people in Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine, delegates agreed to work together to ensure proper protection and rehabilitation of floodplains, wetlands and natural forests, enhancing the implementation of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially for waterfowl protection.

Besides Romania, the presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Slovakia and Ukraine signed the declaration, together with government representatives from Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Austria and Germany.

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