Agriculture has long been a significant source of income for many people living in the Danube River Basin, with more than 50% of the basin’s territory under agricultural cultivation. However, agricultural production often depends on circumstances that cannot or can only be partially controlled, such as weather conditions and plant diseases. In order to control various pests, weeds, and insect infestations, chemical pesticides are widely used. However, chemical pesticides harm human health and cause biodiversity decline in agricultural areas and beyond.
Scientists and citizens are increasingly concerned about the use of pesticides. In the final report of the Conference on the Future of Europe citizens specifically requested to address the use and risk of pesticides. In response, the Commission has proposed clear and binding rules including legally binding targets at EU and national level to reduce by up to 50% the use of chemical pesticides by 2030, strict new rules on environmentally friendly pest control, and a ban on all pesticides in sensitive areas.
The ICPDR has also taken meaningful steps in addressing these growing issues. In two of its recent Guidance and Policy papers on sustainable agriculture in the Danube River Basin, the ICPDR recommends sound policy instruments, financial programmes, and cost-efficient agricultural measures for decision-makers in the agro-environmental policy field to ensure the protection of water bodies. It offers Danube countries support for the preparation and implementation of their tailor-made national agri-environmental policies, CAP Strategic Plans and relevant strategies of the River Basin Management Plans in good synergy. Although the primary focus of the guidance is sustainable nutrient and drought management related to agriculture and rural land management, further editions will broaden the scope towards pesticides and other harmful substances. This will be supported by the current investigations of the Danube Hazard m3c project, which aims to achieve effective transboundary management of hazardous substances pollution in the Danube River Basin. The project will deliver inter alia basin-wide emission assessment tools and policy recommendations to control the pollution of selected hazardous substances of high concern, including pesticides.