Clean up Danube River now, group urges
The Danube is the source of drinking water for 10 million people in Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine.
June 15, 1999
Web posted at: 1:06 p.m. EDT (1706 GMT)
Now that the war in Kosovo appears to have come to an end, the Danube River must be cleaned without delay, the World Wide Fund for Nature said Monday.
Unconfirmed reports have indicated that the NATO air campaign against Serbia resulted in the bombing of oil refineries and chemical plants on the banks of the Danube River. As a result, the river is polluted with toxic chemicals and oil, the group says.
"This is a transboundary issue with risks for an entire region of Europe and the Black Sea," said Philip Weller, the Vienna based director of the World Wide Fund for Nature Danube Carpathian Program.
"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," Weller added.
The first step, according to the group, should be an independent assessment of the situation so that it is known what actions must be taken.
A conference hosted by the United Nation Environment Program May 12-14 found that no significant water pollution could be detected in the Danube to that date, but did agree that a more thorough analysis of the situation was needed.
On this front, the World Wide Fund for Nature said that it is helping the governments of Romania and Bulgaria obtain international funding to acquire specialized equipment to monitor a variety of toxic substances suspected of being in the Danube.
"We are acting as the go-between with governments and international organizations," said Weller. "We hope that they appreciate the need for urgency."
The Danube is the source of drinking water for 10 million people in Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine. Its waters are also used to irrigate crops.
The 1,740-mile-long river supports some of Europe's last and richest natural wetland regions, including its vast and globally important delta, according to the group.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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