A River Basin Management Plan for the Danube River - Weller and Liska page 3

 

The work of the group was facilitated further by the development of the Danube GIS, a tool developed by the ICPDR to organise the information needed for the development of the DRBM Plan. The GIS system has helped visualise important information about the river system (i.e. hindrances for migration, conglomerations of waste water discharge) the results of which the decision makers and the general public can easily understand. The maps produced in conjunction with the River Basin Management Plan are all publicly available on the ICPDR website.

Finally the development of the Plan was only possible because of the political commitment of the countries to cooperate together. Without this, it is unlikely that the River Basin Management Plan would have been possible. Unlike other river basins which were largely a compilation of plans at a national level organised into a river basin plan within the Danube there was considerable joint planning and organising of actions at the Basin wide level and the strong influence of this on the actions and measures at the national level. The joint work in preparing the plan helped each country with its national responsibility and helped ensure the development of common (or at least comparable) methods for analysis and information collection.

Implementing the Plan

The River Basin Management Plan is now complete and was presented to the Danube Water/Environment Ministers in February 2010 in a Ministerial Conference in Vienna.
The measures agreed to be carried out by 2015 will result in a considerable reduction in organic pollution but will not fully meet the WFD 2015 requirements. The Plan considers that measures to meet these requirements are not able to be fully implemented for economic, administrative and technical reasons by 2015. Significant further effort is therefore needed in subsequent years and in the next river basin management cycles.
The technical implementation of the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) Directive (EEC, 1991a) and Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) Directive (EC,  2008a), and an equal level of measures in non EU countries, for example, will significantly contribute to addressing the problem of organic pollution. In general, upstream countries have almost completely achieved overall treatment efficiency; less has been accomplished in the middle/lower Danube countries but extensive efforts are underway. Implementation of the EU Sewage Sludge Directive (EEC, 1986) will ensure that contaminated sludge does not contribute to organic pollution from agriculture.

The planned measures will also considerably reduce nitrogen and phosphorus emissions but they will still not be sufficient to meet the WFD 2015 requirements. Reductions will be assisted by the implementation of the Nitrates Directive (EEC, 1991b) and greater use of Best Available Practices regarding agricultural emissions. However, uncertainties over the level of economic and agricultural development in middle/lower Danube countries makes impacts on pollution levels hard to quantify. Significant reductions will be achieved via the UWWT Directive (UWWTD). But commitment to additional measures (such as the cost-effective introduction of a washing detergent phosphate ban in 2012/2015; coordinated measures to tackle nitrogen pollution from atmospheric deposition and further investigation of the  Danube impacts on the Black Sea) is still required.

One of the major findings of the River Basin Management Plan was the insufficient information related to sources and problems of hazardous substances. The actions towards reduction of pollution by hazardous substances that have been identified will result in significant improvements but are unlikely to be sufficient to meet WFD requirements by 2015. The implementation of the Dangerous Substances Directive (EC, 2008b), the IPPC and UWWT Directives and the widespread use of best practices will improve, but not solve, the problem of hazardous substances. Further necessary measures include the appropriate treatment of priority substances from industrial discharges; strengthening of prevention and safety measures at contaminated sites and the continued upgrading of wastewater treatment plants. Of importance, continued gaps in knowledge and understanding of the emission pathways and transformation processes do not allow for a full assessment of the risks and necessitate more comprehensive monitoring activities.
One of the major new understandings brought by the pressure analysis and water status assessment was that surface waters of the Danube River Basin District (DRBD) are impacted by hydromorphological alterations to a significant degree. In fact a majority of surface waters fail the WFD objectives because of those alterations, which signals the need for measures to achieve the management objectives and WFD environmental objectives. Interruption of river and habitat continuity, disconnection of adjacent wetland/floodplains, hydrological alterations and future infrastructure may impact water status and are therefore addressed as part of the Joint Programme of Measures. The proposed measures will improve river continuity, the reconnection of floodplains and hydrological impacts, but the WFD requirement of good ecological status/potential for all water bodies will not be achieved by 2015. In many cases an extension of the 2015 deadline will be applied and significant further effort in the following WFD cycles will be necessary.
Regarding barriers to fish migration, of the 932 currently impassable, 108 will be made passable for fish by 2015. The Plan sets out priorities for tackling these including proposals for the Iron Gate dams, the major longtitudinal barrier on the Danube itself. Plans are also set out for the reconnection and/or improvement of 62,300 ha of wetlands by 2015, with further enhancements beyond this date. Loss of floodplain wetlands has a major effect on the good quality of water and is also important for flood protection. The cumulative impact of these requires further analysis. Considering water quantity and flow conditions, the measures outlined are unlikely to meet WFD requirements by 2015.
Significant pressures on the structure and naturalness of rivers will be reduced by implementing the actions listed above, but the larger part will only be addressed by measures outlined for 2021 and 2027. For future infrastructure projects, 91 are likely to have a negative transboundary effect and 87 are expected to provoke deterioration in water status. The Plan calls for measures to reduce or prevent impacts on good ecological status/potential, stating that the use of best practices and full consideration of environmental requirements at the earliest planning stage are crucial. The ICPDR intends to develop guidelines on such issues. Such a process is already taking place in the navigation sector where significant efforts to reduce impacts arising from new navigation projects - and also current maintenance works - have made solid progress.  A Joint Statement Document (ICPDR, 2008), which specifies criteria and principles for integrating environmental considerations into navigation projects was adopted by a wide range of the key stakeholders (including industry, non-governmental and governmental officials) in the Danube River Basin.