In 2006 the ICPDR Heads of Delegation meeting, which is held in June every year, took place in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River/ICPDR chose this venue in response to the promise made by Moldova’s Environment Minister Constantin Mihailescu to involve the riparian states alongside the lower Danube reaches more into ICPDR activities. <p< According to routine, Moldova has held the ICPDR Presidency since the turn of the year 2005/06. The key issues debated during the meeting centred on the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive, the enhancement of flood prevention measures in the wake of the dramatic flood events, the need for reconciling navigation and water protection interests, and – last but not least – how to proceed after the phase-out of the Danube Regional Project. </p>
The Heads of Delegation meetings, which are officially entitled Standing Working Group, do not fulfil the purpose of a decision-making platform; they rather complement the plenary sessions held in Dec. each year and serve as a steering panel for the activities of the Danube River Protection Convention.
The Chisinau meeting on 8th – 9th June again emphasised a number of important technical and strategic issues. One of these was concerned with the termination of the Danube Regional Project and the financial bottleneck resulting therefrom. The cancellation of UNDP/GEF assistance in the Danube Region puts the ICPDR before the challenge to find new long-term funding partners.
The ICPDR has numerous projects in the pipeline that cannot be financed through membership fees, such as the development of a Geographic Information System (GIS) for the Danube Basin or a planned relaunch of the Joint Danube Survey, a scientific expedition along the Danube between Regensburg and the Black Sea, in 2007. Although some Danube riparian states, including Austria, are making substantial contributions on a voluntary basis, there are still not enough funds available.
One way to overcome the financial bottleneck would be to found a non-profit entity called Business Friends of the Danube, which could be established under Austrian law. Relevant activities are carried out under the umbrella of the ICPDR Secretariat. The Danube Commission has also officially granted various governmental and non-governmental institutions the status of an observer.
Among these are the International Commission for the Protection of the Black Sea, the Danube Navigation Commission, the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme for the collaboration of Danube riparian states in the field of hydrology, the International Association of Water Supply Companies in the Danube River Catchment Area/IAWD, the WWF, the Danube Environment Forum, the European trade association for electricity and heat producers, VGB Power Tech, and – since the Chisinau meeting in June – also via donau as member number thirteen. All official observers have the opportunity to contribute with their special know-how to the Danube protection programmes elaborated in the various ICPDR work committees.
via donau is regarded as the (spin-off) successor entity of the former Austrian Waterway Directorate. Its goal is to improve navigation on the Danube through special water engineering programmes in tune with ecological requirements. To support a sound balance of interests between navigation and ecology, ICPDR announced in Chisinau that it would draft a respective paper.
Meeting participants expressed their readyness to intensify the concerted flood prevention efforts by accepting the Austrian proposal to draw up a joint analysis of events based on the evaluation of national data resulting from the severe floods of 2006. Such an analysis shall be conducted within the existing ICPDR flood protection working group, if necessary with due collaboration of external experts, and shall serve to draw conclusions based on which separate or joint action programmes and strategies may be developed.
Moreover, participants clearly requested that work on the existing action programme on flood prevention be accelerated. A first step shall be to synchronise flood forecast and warning systems among the Danube riparian states using a set of appropriate technical tools and to develop sub-programmes for partial catchment areas. For this as well as any other projects, ICPDR vitally depends on the work performance of responsible experts and agencies in the Danube riparian states; Austria has often been a pioneer in this field with its contributions.
In the eight years of its existence, the ICPDR has managed to continuously improve the quality of its activities. Delegates from all over the world come to Vienna to gather on-site information about how the Danube riparian states work together in water protection. However, it also needs to be mentioned that not all contracting states in the Danube Region have yet been fully integrated. This is also the case with Moldova, although one can say that the recent Standing Working Group in Chisinau has enormously helped to diminish the existing deficits.
(Source: aqua press Int. 2/2006, DI Richard Stadler)
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