Discover our target regions: The Danube River

Let’s turn the tide for the Danube River

The Danube transcends mere geographical statistics as Europe’s second longest river, stretching 2,778 km from its origin in Germany to its destination, the Black Sea. It embodies a cultural emblem and romantic narrative, symbolising Central Europe’s storied heritage and aspirations for cohesive integration in the years to come. The Danube River basin exhibits remarkable geographical diversity, encompassing towering mountain ranges, expansive plains, sandy dunes, vast forests, and marshy wetlands, as well as distinct features like karst formations and the delta. Likewise, its climate and precipitation patterns vary considerably, shaping the ever-changing landscapes of the basin.

© Medbiker

The Danube basin is a tapestry of nations and cultures. Originating in Germany, it crosses or borders Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine before finally flowing into the Black Sea. The catchment area of the Danube includes significant portions of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, and Montenegro, along with smaller segments of five other nations. Flowing through or bordering ten countries, the Danube gathers water from a total of 19 countries, making it the most internationally connected river in the world.

For centuries, the Danube has been a crucial source of drinking water for communities along its course. Dependence on the river for water necessitates intricate water management strategies and stringent treatment processes, ensuring the safety and quality of water. More than 20 million people depend directly on the Danube for their drinking water.

What are the challenges?

Regrettably, the Danube River faces many hardships.

  • Wetland degradation: Ensuring the conservation of habitats for the varied and abundant natural species inhabiting the basin remains an ongoing challenge. Approximately 80% of the Danube’s wetlands and floodplains have vanished since the late 19th century, endangering the habitats of numerous species such as pelicans in the Danube Delta, sturgeon in the Lower Danube, beavers in the Upper Danube, and countless others. Only in the last 30 years has conservation begun to gain priority in the basin and resources and policies have been devoted to environmental restoration.


  • Pollution: The influx of nutrients, primarily stemming from agricultural fertilizers, household chemicals, and urban wastewater, exceeds acceptable levels, significantly endangering the ecosystem as well as the health of millions of people drinking its water. Additionally, toxic substances present a major threat, exacerbated by incidents such as mining accidents or floods that directly discharge pollutants into waterways.
  • Climate change: The rich biodiversity along the Danube is under threat due to climate change. According to a recent study, temperatures in the Danube regions have risen by 1.5 degrees in the last 30 years. To address the challenges posed by climate change, countries along the Danube are implementing adaptation and mitigation strategies. These include improved water management practices, the development of early warning systems for floods and droughts and the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices. International collaborations, such as those facilitated by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, play a crucial role in coordinating efforts and sharing knowledge to enhance resilience.


What are the solutions?

But there is still hope, there are numerous initiatives aiming to protect the Danube River and basin across the countries.

By the 2023/2024 school year, 72 schools in countries along the Danube have joined the Network of European Blue Schools. However, further efforts are still needed to emphasize the opportunities for schools, teachers, and students when they join the Network.

© European Union, 1995-2024

Given the fact that the Danube flows through ten countries, the article shed lights on two international initiatives:

  • The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) has been established to implement the Danube River Protection Convention. Aiming for a cleaner, healthier and a safer Danube the ICPDR is “one of the largest and most active international river basin management in the world”.

  • DANUBEPARKS association: Starting as a network of Danube Protected Areas in 2007, the association was founded in 2014 to ensure a long-lasting cooperation between the several Danube Protected Areas. Developing Danube-wide strategies for conservation programmes and acting as a mutual advocate for the issues, the DANUBEPARKS have been an important partner for the various international initiatives along the Danube.

SHORE’s Country Hubs

In a landlocked country like Austria, the significance of oceans & rivers seems not immediately apparent for the society. However, the societal impact of initiatives like the SHORE project, through the Austrian Country Hub, and the Network of European Blue Schools is profound, addressing the need for public awareness, highlighting the interconnected ecological and economical world and the role oceans and rivers have. The need to be aware of the global perspective is especially true for the threats of climate change. This perspective ensures that the urgency of environmental problems is recognised, facilitating the development and implementation of effective solutions.

One of the exciting first steps of the SHORE project in Romania, through its national Country Hub, is how it’s shining a spotlight on ocean literacy and the blue economy, especially among students and teachers. By raising awareness and providing education on these topics, we’re paving the way for a more informed and engaged community eager to embrace sustainable practices.

Although Hungary is home to two major rivers, the Danube and the Tisza, and Central Europe’s largest lake, Lake Balaton, efforts still have to made to increase the social engagement in water protection. Today’s Hungarian students have a lot of environmental knowledge, but there is a need to organise more in- and extra-curricular activities to influence students’ behaviour and emotions. The SHORE project, through its Hungarian Country Hub, and joining the Network of European Blue Schools offer great opportunities for schools, teachers and students to do this.

© DANUBEPARKS/Kopacki rit – WILDislands

Do you want to find out more about SHORE and the Danube River?

Contact our Austrian, Romanian or Hungarian Country Hubs!