Climate change and environmental degradation are an existential threat to Europe and the world which requires drastic steps coupled with extraordinary levels of cooperation. Here I would like to emphasise that the Sava Commission and our partner river commissions are a remarkable example of cooperation in the Inland Waterway Transportation (IWT) community. This cooperation is based on a joint spirit and common understanding of ensuring the future of cleaner, healthier and safer waters by combating negative climate change effects on river transport, as well as the rivers themselves and their environment.
To avoid significant expenditures and damages to the environment, it is evident that policy makers and general stakeholders should address climate change issues as a matter of urgency. A clear understanding of the potential impacts, risks and vulnerabilities appears to be a prerequisite for the design and construction of resilient and sustainable transport infrastructure. Its improvement should not be a threat to the environment, but an opportunity to protect and improve the environmental functioning of our highly valuable riverine ecosystems. This perspective is further highlighted in and supported by the ICPDR's latest Significant Water Management Issues (SWMI) overview for 2020.
Analysing further, the attitude towards climate change and the preservation of the riverine ecosystem boils down to changing the mindset of ourselves, the engineers, the ecologists and all the experts involved in this process: taking a common position toward a higher goal - nature conservation for all future generations, in these turbulent times, is a supreme goal. Back to back, united against a common challenge, we are creating the know-how of green and sustainable IWT in an era when nature places new demands on us, unable to absorb the mistakes of the human race that have significantly changed and weakened it.
The ICPDR, the Danube Commission and the Sava Commission are ensuring that environmental protection and river engineering go hand-in-hand through the facilitation of the “Joint Statement on Guiding Principles on the Development of Inland Navigation and Environmental in the Danube River Basin” follow-up process. This work is often very transportation-focused – as is the case with the Sava Commission – or done in a more cross-sectoral way – as seen with the ICPDR. Both organisations recognise the importance Inland Waterway Transport has to the livelihoods of those living in the Danube River Basin, and see its sustainable future as vital. To this end, a continued evolution of the process with even closer interaction with stakeholders in the basin is expected.
Finally, let me proudly refer to the 15 years of the Commission I have chaired. The Sava Commission is the only European river commission that deals both with water management and navigation. This is a great responsibility, with very significant and measurable results that have been achieved in all fields of action.