As part of the second round of DRP grants, 62 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) affiliated with the Danube River and its tributaries received USD 636,000 within the framework of the Danube Regional Project (DRP), with support from the United Nations Development Program/Global Environmental Facility (UNDP/GEF).
The grants have enabled these NGOs to facilitate the reduction of nutrient and toxic pollution in 10 target countries of the Danube River Basin (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia).
Following the scheme of the first round, grants were divided into two main components: National grants were focused on fostering stakeholder cooperation in addressing pollution-related problems at the local level; regional grants were targeted at promoting regional NGO cooperation.
Five multi-country projects helped to bring stakeholders together at the regional level. This took place, for example, near the Hernad River in Hungary and the Sebes and Koros rivers in Romania. Also, public participation has been introduced in Sava River Basin management through the EU Water Framework Directive, while best agricultural practices were promoted in two projects to reduce farming-related pollution in lower Danube countries. Finally, the benefits of reusable nappies and environment-friendly detergents were extolled in Croatia and Slovenia.
At the national level, 57 projects received USD 458,830 in support. Ongoing project efforts include: reducing pollution from Danube tributaries such as the Sava, Olt, Ipoly, Prut, Zitava and Tisza; campaigning for and promoting organic agriculture in Vukovar (Croatia), Moravia (Czech Republic), Subotica (Serbia) and Moldova; promoting best agricultural practices to reduce nutrients and pesticides in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia; introducing phosphate-free detergents in the Czech Republic; better protecting and managing wetlands along the Slovak Danube and in the Slovenian karst; improving flood management in Bulgaria and wastewater treatment in Moldova; and alerting local populations about existing pollution from hazardous waste disposal in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
NGO initiatives have been crucial in extending public awareness actions to address basin-wide problems and in tackling water pollution and cross-cutting issues that local and national politicians do not generally assign as high priorities.
"Many NGOs have demonstrated how to address real pollution issues at local, national and transboundary levels," said Alexander Zinke, a Vienna-based environmental consultant who evaluated both rounds of projects. "These NGOs have offered information and introduced new nutrient management techniques, have achieved the engagement of local communities and industries, and have started to change consumer behaviour. The grant programme ended with multiple sustainable successes throughout the Danube Basin."