Czech government approves first stage of canal project linking Danube to North Sea

Part of Odra-Danube canal in Poland, photo: Jaroslav Kubec, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Czech government has approved the first part of a planned canal system connecting the Danube with the North Sea, Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlíček announced on Monday. The total cost is expected to lie at around CZK 15 billion and construction could start after the year 2030. Unlike in the original plan, which counted on connecting the Danube, Oder and Elbe rivers, a study conducted by the Industry and Trade Ministry counts just on connecting the Danube with the Oder.

According to one renaissance historian, the idea of connecting the Danube with the North Sea already began during the reign of Emperor Charles IV., with several plans being formulated in the subsequent centuries.

Over the past decade the project has been resurrected. In 2017 the responsible ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia signed a memorandum on preparations for the construction of connecting the Danube-Oder-Elbe rivers. Now the project has moved further, according to Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček, who tweeted Monday that the first stage of the canal’s construction has been approved by his government.

Karel Havlíček,  photo: archive of the Office of Czech Government

Mr. Havlíček wrote that, according to results from a relevant study, the project is both realistic and would bring benefits to the surrounding region. For example, easier access for local industry to European and world markets and recreational travel opportunities.

The first stage of the project would involve improving the infrastructure between the Czech city of Ostrava to the Polish border, where the canal would be connected to the Polish section going on to the town of Koźle, which lies on the junction of the Oder and Kłodnica rivers.

This would include the reconstruction of eight bridges, two lock chambers and the construction of a harbour on the Czech side, with the water corridor about five meters deep and 40 meters wide.

In Poland, a further CZK 29 billion would be spent on the infrastructure leading up to the town of Koźle.

This first stage of the section would later be connected with the Danube. The original plan to also connect the canals with the Elbe River seems to have been dropped by the ministry, as it was deemed less economically viable than the two river project.

The canal system has long been strongly supported by Czech President Miloš Zeman. Its supporters see it as a way to help revive the fading river transport system in the Czech Republic, as well as helping during floods and increasing the state’s water reserves. However, ecologists say the corridor would destroy the remains of the natural ecosystem in Central Europe and have a negative impact on the surrounding land and water areas.