The Danube river basin fulfils a wide variety of functions: The Danube is not only a waterway and energy source, but also a recreational area and natural habitat. It is important to bring these different uses into harmony with each other. Targeted solutions are needed that include all dimensions of use as far as possible.
The Action Programme Danube 2030 (APD 2030) continues the efforts of its predecessor programmes to deal with the topics of "navigation" and "ecology" - with partly overlapping, partly contradictory interests - in an integrative approach. Making navigation environmentally compatible and sustainable and strengthening its position in the overall transport system is just as much an integral part of the programme as safeguarding and improving the habitat on the Danube, March and Thaya.
The predecessor programmes the National Action Plan Danube Navigation and Action Programme for the Danube 2022 were in force from 2007-2015 and from 2015-2022.
In spring 2022, the contents of the Action Programme Danube 2030 were developed and discussed together with relevant stakeholders and representatives of the corporate bodies, passenger and cargo shipping, nature conservation organisations and research institutions.
The APD 2030 pursues strategic objectives on navigation as well as on ecology, as far as it is in the scope of the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK).
However, the Danube must also be addressed beyond Austria's borders as an European river basin and transport corridor. The BMK also assumes this responsibility and plays a fundamental role in shaping transnational and European initiatives.
Climate Change & Sustainability
Climate change is not only a global development, it also directly impacts the regional water cycle. There is a high potential for increased low water periods, which poses a challenge for the river habitat as well as for the continuity and economic usability of the Danube as a waterway.
The APD 2030 therefore attempts to shape the necessary use of resources in such way that both the interests of cargo and passenger shipping are adequately represented and the preservation of the natural regenerative capacity of the ecosystems involved is guaranteed. The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among others, serve as a guide
The decline in biodiversity has accelerated in recent decades due to human activities such as intensive land use, pollution, hydromorphological changes (e.g. regulations), but also due to climate change. Especially on the Danube and its tributaries, the draining of old and side arms, bank straightening, flood protection measures and the construction of hydraulic structures (especially river power plants) have played a major role in decreasing biodiversity through habitat loss and barrier effects. For example, according to a UN report from 2019, around 40% of freshwater fish in Europe are threatened with extinction.
Austria's contributions to achieving the EU Biodiversity Targets 2030 are set out in the new Biodiversity Strategy Austria 2030. Within the framework of its activities, the APD 2030 will also make an important contribution in the future to counteracting the loss of biodiversity on the Danube, March and Thaya and restoring destroyed ecosystems.
In the transport sector, technological innovations such as remote monitoring of infrastructure facilities, dynamic and adaptive adjustment of so far rigid hydraulic structures, alternative and fossil-free fuels, as well as the associated new engine technologies or seamless multimodality will have a significant influence on the sustainable competitiveness of Danube navigation in the medium term.
Additionally, in areas with purely ecological objectives, such as innovative methods in river monitoring, further developments should be drivers for a future-oriented and sustainable river basin. The BMK endeavours to provide space for innovations and to promote and support them in the new APD 2030.
Digitisation is an issue, that has gained importance on the waterways in recent years. For the BMK, the focus in the context of digitisation is not only on the expansion of River Information Services (RIS), the digitisation of ship documents, the electronic waterway management system and the remote monitoring of floating fairway markers (buoys), but also on safety around and during the locking process. In the field of ecology, too, successive digitisation of data and their embedding in centrally usable data management systems can bring benefits that may be useful in climate change research or in the collection of smaller-scale ecological data (e.g. species inventories).
Globalisation & Regionalisation
Both waterway management and the renaturation of water bodies only develop their full effect when the entire system - across regional, national and international boundaries - is taken into account.
While globalisation is a logical and continuous megatrend for a transnational river like the Danube, regionalisation became increasingly important especially in the course of the Covid19 pandemic and in view of the challenges of climate change and the effects of the war in Ukraine.
The dependence on global supply chains needs to be reconsidered. As a crisis-proof mode of transport, inland navigation can make a significant contribution to this security of supply, but at the same time it needs to become more resilient and adaptable in order to be able to react to rapidly changing framework conditions.
The Danube region is also becoming increasingly important as a leisure and recreational area. Therefore, it is also necessary to take a closer look at the regional recreational possibilities on and along the Danube and to address different interest groups.