THE WORLD WILDLIFE FUND (WWF) claims that plans to develop the Danube river are a recipe for ecological disaster. The river, Europe’s second longest after the Volga, is navigable from Ulm, Germany, to the Black Sea, a distance of 2587km. Its river basin is home to 80M people in 17 countries, and 20M people depend on the river for drinking water.

The plans, which include construction of new canals, dams and the deepening of parts of the river, threaten vital wetland ecosystems, according to the WWF. Its report is to be delivered to the governments of countries along the Danube, the Danube Commission and the European Commission which helped develop some of the plans.

WWF said plans include the Straubing-Vilshofen area in Germany, where deepening the river and damming it would destroy the last ecologically valuable stretch of the river in Germany. The report says that plans for dams, drainage and irrigation projects in Croatia and Bosnia would destroy the meanders and floodplains of the Sava river, which flows into the Danube. A planned canal that would link the Danube with the Oder and Elbe rivers would also alter or destroy 400,653ha of protected river sites in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, WWF said.