The Danube: River of Life

the donor burden of the donor area the

deny the donor the Danube the river has

many names because it flows three

different countries different cultures

the Danube flows directly through ten

countries many of them newly created or


it starts in Germany and Austria

prosperous states of the new Europe

enrolls through the struggling economies

of Slovakia Hungary Croatia Serbia

Romania Bulgaria Moldova and Ukraine the

Danube is Europe's most important water

artery flowing from the heart of Europe

and emptying into the Black Sea the

Danube Basin is home to 80 million

people the river is a major trade link a

tourist and recreation route a wildlife

Haven it is a vital source of

hydroelectric power

it is a font of drinking water for tens

of millions of people it is also a sewer

for human industrial and agricultural


this journey from Germany to the Black

Sea took place in the autumn of 1999 our

vessel for the first part of the journey

from Germany to Yugoslavia as the Delfin


in normal times the river is navigable

all the way to the Black Sea but the

recent Wars of the region meant that

these were not normal times this

floating symposium was inspired by his

all holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch

spiritual leader of the orthodox church

who is committed to help restore our

planet to environmental health this

voyage is also a mission to heal the

spiritual scars of war an international

group of experts has been gathered at

this workshop session to look for

solutions to the Danube environmental

problems but environmental problems

seldom stand alone on the Danube they

are worsened by economic distress ethnic

hostilities and the trauma of war one

thing again that might be worth doing is

finding examples of of generating

economic activity for people in

countries like Bulgaria

whatever are beneficial to the

environment and before during the

Communist time they wanted to change the

river to increase the water level or to

deepen the bed of the river because the

boats were not comfortable how stupid

was to change the river instead of to

change the boats for thousands of years

the Danube shaped the life of the people

of the region for the last hundred years

people have shaped the Danube for the

most part this has not been good for the

ecology or for the people

Phillip Weller runs the Danube program

for the World Wide Fund for Nature he is

passionately dedicated to the river and

to the people of Danube eeeh well the

problems of the Danube are ones that can

be categorized as as alterations to the

physical structure of the the river as

well as pollution which has been added

to the river too much attention has been

given to the serf Ellucian side without

enough attention to the the river as a

living system the the floodplain

connections pollution there has been

both industrial toxic wastes as well as

the nutrients that are coming from

sewage or industrial facilities there

has been general improvement throughout

the system that those levels are being


what has unfortunately not happened is

changes in a significant way with

respect to the natural dynamics of the

river over the last century major

changes to the river were engineered to

favour growth in the traffic of large

commercial vessels throughout the Danube

who have a basically a straightening and

narrowing of the river channel forcing

the river to move the water along

quickly we're finding though that this

straitjacket of the river means that the

river loses its ability to provide life

for us the floodplains the flowing up of

water out of the river up onto the land

is an essential element in terms of

recharging groundwater it's an essential

element in terms

reducing the amount of nutrients and

pollutants that are in the river it's a

very very important means that

maintaining the biodiversity that is

adapted to these conditions the Danube

greatest service to its population the

flushing and cleansing of water drunk by

millions of people happens underground

unseen largely unappreciated at a

Bavarian monastery a monthly Sunday

morning service binds people of

different faiths together in a prayer

for the protection of the river and the

life it services the symposium began

with a prayer dedicated to the Danube


flowers are released to float downstream

for each country of the river

it may be a good omen that the massive

tanker swerved to avoid the flowers


in Passau Town Hall the patriarch

bartholomew confirms his commitment to

the river and irresponsible of harmful

substances to be substantially harming

the next generation we therefore must

learn to respect humanity it is

unacceptable burden others with our

waste this is the only way you have

ensured that the death becomes a road of

life for all otherwise they are dented

of meta-god being bearers of death after

the picture postcard city of Passau in

southern germany the Delfin queen heads

down river towards austria the danube is

an international waterway in Germany in

Austria have canalized the river to the

Rhine creating a commercial artery that

flows 4,000 kilometres through the heart

of Europe linking the North Sea to the

Black Sea

the symposium pauses in its course to

recall the dark history of the region in

the peaceful countryside near the Danube

Nazis built a concentration camp he said

about the task of ethnic cleansing

we continued downstream - Austria's

capital Vienna Vienna has a rich

thousand-year history it's positioned

between the mountains and the Danube

flat lands make it a confluence of Trade

and cultures it was a world leader in

music science art and literature a dozen

languages were spoken in its streets but

devastated by two world wars Austria

seemed to become just another small

country of middle Europe but now at the

beginning of the 21st century Austria

seems once again poised to play an

important role in de Nubia among the

countries of Europe it has a very strong

green movement on the first 1,000

kilometers of the Danube there are over

50 dams many of these are meant to curb

the seasonal flooding but they often

just push the torrent further downstream

in 1988 to control flooding Vienna

completed a vast project which divided

the river by constructing an artificial

Danube Island but a plan to construct a

hydroelectric power station downstream

was blocked by massive protests from

Austria strong environmental movement

now most of the Danube region east of

Vienna has been turned into a nature


currently the World Wide Fund for Nature

is unblocking channels to restore the

rivers natural flooding would be now in

this in the water since yeah this this

high here years ago there was no hole

here it was just blocked it was a dam

here the water couldn't run as a result

of the water that couldn't run or the

sedimentation and we opened these dams

here so that the water can flow again

and there's a dynamic that should push

away all the gravel

you want that there's more water and

less lamb in fact water is Austria's

treasure from its rivers lakes and

glaciers Austria has an abundance of

freshwater in an era of dwindling

resources this small country has enough

to supply Europe's 370 million people it

may well be essential to the future of

the continent the Delfin queen heads

east to the new state of slovakia like

all the small countries of Central

Europe Slovakia has always been torn

between a desire for independence and

the need to be protected by greater

powers in the last century alone

Slovakia has been part of

austria-hungary part of Czechoslovakia

independent and part of Czechoslovakia

once again in peace and war its

boundaries have fluctuated in 1993

Slovakia split from Czechoslovakia and

is now independent once more the Slovak

Republic is a country of sparse

resources especially energy in the 1990s

the government managed to build a

nuclear reactor

despite vigorous protests from

environmentalists and from neighboring

Austria this nuclear facility is built

on a tributary of the Danube towards the

end of the Communist era Czechoslovakia

together with Hungary began to build the

gabcik of Odin as an energy source

when Slovakia broke away from

Czechoslovakia Slovaks continued alone

the project changed the course of the

Daniel this was Daniel before here in

these powerhouse four turbines

Cottontail beans and we can use the

energy from this powerhouse the gap

Chicago Dam is not only about energy it

is an assertion of Slavic nationalism in


within the country there were protests

from environmentalists but they were

ignored what to them which badly impacts

biodiversity in this very precious area

of flat plains forests and silence of

the Danube River which was a unique the

enormous area about 40 square kilometers

of floodplain forests and ecosystems

were completely cut down the Danube

floodplain feeds underwater aquifers

which constitute one of the largest

drinking water reservoirs in Europe the

impact of the dam and diversion canals

on this critical water supply could be

catastrophic for part of its length the

Danube forms the boundary between

Slovakia and Hungary the dam complex was

originally intended to be a joint

project between the two countries and

Hungary even began construction

this was still in the Communist era when

defying the authorities was dangerous

nevertheless Hungarian environmentalists

challenged the government then we

organized the protest in 1985 according

to my knowledge this was the first ever

organized protest in the Eastern Bloc at

that time we have been beaten up by the

police and at the next protest we had

70,000 supporters and that was really

the the biggest step in softening up the

regime so the changes started in the

same year in 1988 in 1989 the government

stopped the construction at the

Hungarian territory it is difficult to

imagine that environmental group can

achieve more the problem was that in the

Slovakian side they did not stop the

construction they actually built the dam

and onions were baked integrity and they

divert to the river in Slovakian

territory in this map you can't even see

I mean in a very slightly spot you see

that both sides of the river is

belonging to Slovenia

and in that section they divert to the

river and 20% of the river is going back

to the origin riverbed and 80% is going

to a artificial navigation channel and

it's going through turbines to produce

electricity and now the tube government

have to find a solution of a compromise

in order to have more water in India

Hungarian side because the wetland which

is a unique wetland is drying out the

dispute over the gap chicka Bow Dam is

very serious and even led to talk of

armed conflict the matter is now before

the International Court at The Hague

basic to the Danube status as an

international waterway is recognition

that any major interference with the

rivers flow affects all countries like

all the countries of the region

Hungary suffered greatly from the two

world wars in the communist regime that

followed but since the fall of communism

Hungary has started to become integrated

into the economy and defense system of

Western Europe

due to the NATO conflict with Yugoslavia

the Serbian stretch of the river was

blocked as the dolphin Queen headed back

upstream we traveled by road through a

Serbia scarred by shells and bombs this

area where Hungary Croatia and

Yugoslavia converge is of special

importance to Philip well I'm here just

a little ways downstream the drive a

river enters the Danube and the drama is

one of the main tributaries to the

Danube River and at the confluence of

the Drava and the Danube rivers is one

of the most spectacular floodplain

ecosystems that exists and the most

important in terms of maintaining fish

populations in this central part of the

Danube and you can still see in the

Nature Park the artillery embankments

where the frontlines exist it's also an

area that perhaps is better protected

than any other ecosystem arc or region

in the this area because it's heavily


large number of houses the community

infrastructure in this region was

totally destroyed but there is the

potential here to create a trilateral

conservation scheme that involves

Hungary Croatia and Yugoslavia or Serbia

and on creating what here could be a

Peace Park the plan is to develop

fishing and forestry in conjunction with

eco tourism peoples of differing

nationalities differing religious belief

differing perspectives can come together

and combine their interests in trying to

ensure that that natural natural base is

retained and I think if this experiment

is successful and we certainly hope that

it is it's not something that will

happen overnight but it is something

that that can and should be an example

though for the Danube River region but

also for other parts of the world in how

to re-establish both community and

communities that are based upon

maintenance of the natural ecosystems in

war-torn areas such as this

a welcome offering of bread and salt

begins a reception given by local


the presence of Orthodox and Catholic

priests rabbis and Muslim clerics

reflects the good relations between the

different ethnic groups of this province

NATO considered Novi Sad a strategic

target because of its Danube bridges the

city was hard-hit even though it was

known to be a center of resistance to

the Milosevic regime in Belgrade so you

have a beautiful overview of Novi Sad

you know the bridge has been bombarded

six or seven times before it collapsed

and you see now that is the main

obstacle for the river flow because the

whole construction of that huge bridge

because it was a railway bridge and it

was a transport bridge with two ways you

know it is under the water now NATO's

bombs also hit no besides oil refinery

thousands of tons of oil and chemicals

were released the soil is heavily

contaminated and it is sinking every day

and the closer to this ground water you

know so if we have to do something we

should do immediately no to remediate

the soil and not to allow contact with

the groundwater because then if you

contaminate the aquifer that's lost for

a you know years

maybe if decades the people of Nova side

bill the pontoon bridge is a temporary

connection between the divided city now

after the fall of Milosevic money is

expected from the European Union for

bridge construction it will also be a

bridge towards Serbia's integration into

Europe orgy of the different faiths

Christian Muslim Jewish gather on the

point overlooking the Danube for an

interfaith prayer for peace the site

chosen for this gathering is dedicated

to the Second World War

here are engraved the names of the

victims from Novi Sad who died in the

war against fascism

so that even in this dreadfully

tormented region of the Balkans

they will prevail the beloved peace

furthermore the Danube which has been

disastrously wounded will continue to

flow and perform its peacekeeping role

in this region we are now back on the

Danube traveling east of Yugoslavia in

Romanian waters

we have switched to a Romanian vessel

writer Neil Ashton reflects on the

nature of modern warfare

now we are passing through the region

known as the iron gates which used to be

a barrier to river traffic historical

markers speak of great changes in how

the river runs we have here the table

Triana this is a very important story

about the building of the Romans whose

tablet was laid in the time of the Roman

emperor trajan Romania derives its name

from the Roman conquest of the second

century AD the Romans built a road along

the river for their legions and for

commerce no original one but he was

built but

the one third company has come up the

road is now submerged because the two

iron gates hydroelectric power stations

have raised the water level human

restructuring of the river has had a

profound effect on fish life especially

the sturgeon a huge fish once plentiful

in the den you ordered at the beginning

somebody mentioned that the last

sturgeon that they saw in Vienna was 150

years ago there is that big sturgeon 300

kilos big this cannot pass through since

this gate had been built have been built

it's opening up human impact on the

region's fish population has been

devastating not only did the locks and

dams prevent the migration of giant

sturgeon but pollution from industrial

wastes cyanide spills chemicals from

NATO bombs grandiose drainage schemes

and overfishing have impacted the fish

population all the way to the Black Sea

the iron gates hydropower station is the

biggest in Europe and the second largest

in the world

but Troodon Moysey is a Romanian

environmentalist she talks about the

iron gates hydroelectric project in the

island it submerge a very big project

and we Romanians all feel proud for it

of course it was the electricity problem

Romania you know tries hard to find

alternative sources for energy for


construction of the iron gates 1

hydroelectric project was completed in

1971 the history has dramatic aspects as

well the building of the hydropower

station was possible after flooding the

other Calais Island a de Cali Island was

considered a unique ecosystem which was

lost forever

all along the Danube sewage disposal is

a major concern with a hundred and

ninety-two towns and cities dumping into

the river

yo Keem bend off is on the international

commission for the protection of the

danube and is involved in comprehensive

plans for reinvigorating the river and

its economy where's he at the Daniel you

have to see the whole Basin was a

pollution finally ends up in the Daniel

Daniel itself contribution to the band

you have it here in Novi Sad Belgrade

Bratislava Vienna so you have certain

pools along the Danube but more

important is what comes in from the


yeah it's about 5.7 billion dollars so

it's not only a question of collision

attack by the question of pollution

reduction and environmental concern is

very closely linked with the

introduction of new modern technologies

best agricultural practice

and a restructuring of the whole let's

say socio-economic situation if the

countries want to join the European

Union they have to apply a certain

number of environmental standards and

this is very positive it is positive in

the sense that if there is new

development this new development has to

go in line with environmental standards

but I do believe that thinking should go

to Investment Europe the European Union

should invest in the transition

countries for future development and and

future growth of the region to indicate

the countries in the European economy to

make it really a part at this point the

Danube forms the boundary between

Romania on the north shore and Bulgaria

on the south we make a stop at Vidhan

among our group is one King simeon of

bulgaria since the fall of communism

King simians private estates have been

restored to him and he has promised

forests and parkland to the nation he is

a dedicated environmentalist King simian

has been in exile since 1945 but now he

is able to visit his homeland two years

after the symposium the King's party

would gain a majority in democratic

elections in Bulgaria he has been deeply

disturbed by the wars that have

devastated the Balkans during the last

decade so it must be clear and here very

subjective about it because Bulgaria is

directly penalized because we're on the

other side of the destroyed bridges and

suffer from it severely and our economy

had just begun to improve when we were

faced with this unexpected and most


development by blocking the Danube NATO

punished Bulgaria in all the countries

of the region not just Yugoslavia our

journey through the lower danube reveals

a dismal river scape of rusting hulks

vessels with nowhere to go in idle docks

a fragile post communist economy

worsened by the bombed bridges of

Yugoslavia Romania and Ukraine share the

Delta we are passing from Romanian to

Ukrainian waters the divisions of

Eastern Europe are evident in the

frequent passport checks these kind of

bureaucratic difficulties are are

something that are are common here and

perhaps it's quite appropriate that we

we have to live it as well as anybody


Moldova share of the Danube is so short

that it is easy to miss it

we are welcomed into Ukrainian waters

with folk music

like all the countries of dennou via

Ukraine has dozens of minorities in this

part of the Delta there are thousands of

ethnic Germans and Bulgarians driven are

enticed here over the centuries toko

girls policy

respective borders we have we hope


this was contested between Romania and

Russia the Soviet Union Ukraine has the

worst environmental pollution in Europe

with few resources it is struggling to

restore a delta savaged by demented

schemes of the Communist era when

wetlands were drained for agricultural

production blocking their function as

cleansing filters we have assumed these

islands we tried to create the nature

which is as close to to the naked self

as possible the water level this year

was very high and as the result eaves

have damaged the dikes and the dams and

we are not going to save these three

islands as thought damaged as as as they

should be as nature

the ITT rune s90 costura box done in

money and progression you fear beautiful

eyes the 90s in it at the moment any

kind of economic activities stopped here

is restricted and there is and it's one

of the things that we are not very

comfortable with there are areas of the

Delta that are fence in them and age you

can't fences of nature Phillip Weller

continues his crusade for integrating

local people into protecting nature what

true conservation involves building in

the local people allowing them to

understand and be a part of the

conservation activities to to see

themselves as part of the conservation

pollution carried by the danube drains

into the Black Sea heading to that

regions problems

his all holiness the Ecumenical

Patriarch Bartholomew the first

summarizes the accomplishments of the

danube journey we should like to take

this opportunity to inform you of the

follow-up of activities of religion

science and the environment symposium 3

the danube river of life great interest

was expressed in the Danube in both its

spiritual and ecological value therefore

we invite you and your congregation to

join in a project to promote future

development of the Danube benefiting

both the people and the environment of

this great river the aim of the project

is to develop a network of the religious

institutions to work together on common

projects along the entire Danube River

such a network will strengthen the

cooperation between different countries

and religions the endeavor will be


the Danube a network for a living

River some possible activities to be

initiated by this project could include

organizing a public event about the

theological and ecological importance of

water and the Danube launching a common

publication about the importance of the

river from a theological as well as an

ecological viewpoint developing

management plan for the environmental

operation of monasteries located along

the river organizing training courses in

agriculture and forestry with relevant

information provided in the form of a

booklet applying environmentally

responsible tech

weeks in forest management in order to

include them in the worldwide forest

network of the forest viewership Council

truly believing that you will share in

our keen interest and enthusiasm we hope

that you will be able to join us in

developing this most valuable project so

that together we will be able to

continue the spirit of the Danube