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Johannes Graupner

Infrastructure policy: waterway development puts ecosystems and its services at risk

IGB submits expert statement on Trans-European Transport Network
The European Commission asked for feedback on the planned revision of the guidelines for the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). IGB handed in a research-based analysis focusing on the potential environmental impacts of the planned policy and the respective measures. The IGB scientists underline that improved EU policies to increase the sustainability of traffic and the respective infrastructure are urgently required, especially with perspective to the climate- and biodiversity-related goals of the EU. In the concrete case of TEN-T, increased precaution should be taken not to consider inland navigation and its infrastructure as a sustainable solution in general, but to take into account the adverse impacts on freshwater ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide to society.

The negative impact of inland navigation on river ecosystems must be given greater consideration in European transport and infrastructure policy, IGB researchers say. Photo: dendoktoor / pixabay.

Strong target conflicts between inland waterway transport on one hand and both river rehabilitation and biodiversity conservation on the other hand (foreseen e.g. in the EU's biodiversity strategy for 2030) have to be mitigated before implementing TEN-T measures. Harmonisation is needed in order to avoid situations where measures implemented under TEN-T prevent achieving the good ecological potential as required by the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). TEN-T regulations and activities need to be subjected to pan-sectoral environmental impact assessment, cost-benefit check and prioritisation rather than counteract with the objectives of the Green Deal.

Sustainable, climate-resilient inland navigation infrastructure should be designed to cope with the actual conditions of the dynamic natural aquatic ecosystems in a flexible way, in contrast to the current non-sustainable system of adapting rivers to a certain, ever larger navigation class. If inland navigation infrastructure is further developed with the outdated approaches of the past, it will never become the environmentally and climate-friendly mode of transport that EU policy desires and plans it to be, the researchers conclude.

The full IGB position can be downloaded here.

Contact person

Jörn Gessner

Research Group Leader
Research group
Reintroduction of the European Sturgeon to Germany

Martin Pusch

Research Group Leader
Research group
Functional Ecology and Management of Rivers and Lake Shores

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