Joint effort helps restore Danube River and Black Sea ecosystems

21 Mar 2011

An international plan, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has helped to restore the fragile plant and animal life of the Danube River basin after 75 years of agricultural, industrial and municipal pollution.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and other harmful chemicals, for example from farm fertilizers and household detergents, had so severely damaged the ecosystems of the Danube that an oxygen depleted ‘dead zone’ had formed in the western part of the Black Sea.

UNDP identified the major sources of pollution, developed an investment strategy and strengthened institutions that govern the Danube basin and Black Sea, on which millions depend for their livelihoods, including fishing and tourism.

Over 15 years, UNDP and the Global Environment Facility helped to catalyze US$3.5 billion in pollution reduction investments, more environmentally sensitive agricultural and industrial practices as well as reform of policies, legislation and governing institutions.

The strategic planning and incoming funds enabled the 13 countries in the Danube basin to monitor and improve water quality by establishing 75 monitoring stations throughout the basin.

With the support of an initial US$49.5 million through the programme, governments also instituted a damage control system to minimize risks from accidental chemical spills and agreed to reduce nutrient pollution.

Following these governance reforms and investments, critical habitats were being restored and protected during the last decade, virtually eliminating the Black Sea dead zone and leading to a significant recovery of the Sea’s ecosystem and its local livelihoods.

UNDP works with more than 100 countries in over two dozen of the world’s major freshwater and marine transboundary water systems to modify agriculture, industry, mining, fishing and wastewater management to reduce ecological damage to these vital shared water systems.