The Black Sea is the world’s most isolated sea. As its catchment area is six times larger than its surface area, and every year about 350 km³ of river water from an area covering almost a third of continental Europe flow into the Black Sea, the Sea is very vulnerable to pressures resulting from land-based human activities such as industry, agriculture and growing urban communities. These activities are potential sources of pollution, and if not properly managed can have a negative impact on the water quality and water uses. In particular, pollution by nutrients and toxic substances becomes a serious problem. As of 2006, the Danube River, with a mean annual water volume of 6550 m³/s discharged 18 countries or parts of them, Austria, Bosnia - Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Serbia, Montenegro, Switzerland and Ukraine. It forms the biggest contributing stream of the Black Sea.
The article illuminates the existing co-operations for pollution control in the Danube - Black Sea Region, focussing on strategic partnerships such as the Danube Regional Project, the Black Sea Ecosystems Recovery Project and the World Bank Investment Fund for Nutrient Reduction. Furthermore the Danube River Protection Convention, including the Joint Action Programme, policies and legislations dealing with water management, the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution, the Danube - Black Sea Memorandum of Understanding, the Danube - Black Sea Joint Technical Working Group, the EU DABLAS, the EU Water Framework Directive as a driving force and mechanism for Integrated River Basin Management and the development of the Danube River Basin Management Plan, are introduced.
Due to co-operative action over more than two decades, considerable improvements in environmental conditions in the Danube basin have been made wherever investments, e.g. into wastewater treatment, have taken place. Nevertheless, the load of organic pollution in surface waters is still unacceptably high in most of the Danube tributaries and in some parts of the Danube River. The discharge of untreated or insufficiently treated wastewater from municipal, industrial and agricultural point sources is widespread, in particular in the middle and lower part of the basin. The indicators for impact from organic pollution show that the water quality is significantly affected, the major cause being insufficient treatment of municipal wastewater.
The Danube River Basin is characterized by significant social and economic disparities and some of the middle and downstream Danube countries in transition as well as the countries of the Black Sea region are facing serious economic and financial problems. This affects how they can respond to the objectives of the Danube and Black Sea Protection Conventions, and how measures for pollution reduction and environmental protection can be implemented as required for the accession to the European Union. These countries need assistance, making the responsibilities of the international community to react to the regional and global concerns of environmental protection clearly visible.