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THE DANUBE

Economy

A Valuable Economic Resource

The Danube's drainage basin is the life-blood of Europe, providing drinking water to more than 20 million people. However other industries, such as tourism and navigation – as well as fishing, agriculture and hydropower – continue to depend on the eternal flow of the Danube and its many tributaries.

Bringing People to the Danube

The Danube always has been a major attraction for tourists. Important tourist and natural spots along the Danube include the Naturpark Obere Donau in Germany, the Wachau Valley and the Donau-Auen National Park in Austria, the Danube Bend and Gemenc in Hungary, Kopački rit in Croatia, Iron Gates in Serbia and Romania, the Srebarna Nature Reserve in Bulgaria and the Danube Delta in Romania.

One of the major attractions, the scenic Danube Cycle Path, is a bicycle trail along the Danube. It begins in the foothills of the Black Forest in Donaueschingen and continues over 2875 km all the way to the Black Sea in Romania. And cycling, boating, fishing, hiking or swimming are only a handful of the many activities engaging millions of tourists along the Danube River throughout the seasons.

Building Tourism Models that Last

But tourism today also faces the danger of overuse and destruction for quick profit. In the Danube Delta, which is an El Dorado of birdwatchers and nature lovers, eco-tourism offers a big potential for saving biodiversity. This miracle world of the delta with its bird colonies can only be explored by canoe, rowing or small motorboat, on narrow canals through reed and pasture woods. Without expert guides, strangers are lost in this labyrinth. A major problem is that local guides speaking foreign languages are hard to find. Training courses for local nature guides have to be established.

Sustainable eco-tourism can be of benefit to all: the region, its inhabitants, its visitors – and especially – its biodiversity. It can bring small groups close to nature and create local income, but it also needs monitoring and guidance.

Cooperation with companies helps work towards the goal of a greener tourism model. The Danube-Drava National Park, for instance, has received the largest charitable donation for environmental protection in Hungary to date. Coca-Cola Hungary donated nearly €95,000 to boost eco-tourism and improve the water quality in the area.

Shipping – Finding a Green Alternative to Roads

Barge on the Danube
The Danube is an important transport route, also known as "Corridor VII" of the European Union. Since the opening of the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal in 1992, the river connects the Black Sea with the industrial centres of Western Europe and with the Port of Rotterdam on the North Sea (3500 km). About 60 of its tributaries are also navigable and the entire waterway is designed for large scale inland vessels.

But the increase in the volume of transported goods also creates more traffic on existing transport routes. Pressures from navigation have resulted in changes to the natural river structure, such as disconnections of separate channels, tributaries and wetlands, or in a disruption of the natural flow of the river. Navigation can hinder fish migration, and pollute the water with oil or hazardous substances