WWF calls for Danube clean-up

Political obstacles must not delay a clean up of pollution in the River Danube following the war in Yugoslavia, warns the conservation organisation WWF.

“This is a transboundary issue with risks for an entire region of Europe and the Black Sea,” Philip Weller, the Vienna based director of the WWF Danube Carpathian Programme, said in a statement. “Now that the war appears to be over, urgent action has to be taken to protect the lower Danube and the millions of people whose security is linked to its environmental health.”

Oil refineries and chemical plants on the banks of the River Danube and its tributaries in Yugoslavia were among targets of NATO’s 11 week long bombing campaign in the war over Kosovo. There are reports, yet to be substantiated because of lack of access to the region, that large amounts of toxic chemicals and oil leaked into the river as a result of the bombing.

“The first step must be an independent and verifiable assessment of the situation, ” Weller observed. “Without that it’s impossible to know the appropriate action needed.” Meanwhile, WWF is assisting the governments of Romania and Bulgaria to obtain international funding for acquiring specialised equipment to monitor a variety of toxic substances now suspected of being in the Danube.

The Danube is the source of drinking water for up to ten million people in Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine. Its waters are also used for irrigating crops. The 2,800 km-long river supports some of Europe’s last surviving and richest wetland natural regions, including its vast and globally important delta.

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