Elbe-Oder-Danube canal – logistic dream or megalomanic nightmare?
The tug-of-war continues over one of the most ambitious construction projects ever imagined, the building of a canal linking three of Europe’s mightiest rivers – the Elbe, the Oder and the Danube. It’s a pet project of President Miloš Zeman, who this week unveiled an exhibition devoted to it at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. However both the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Green Party have reasserted their opposition to the idea, saying it would have catastrophic consequences for the environment.
So unsurprisingly, the project – which has heavyweight political support in both Poland and the Czech Republic – has many opponents. On Thursday, the Czech Academy of Sciences’s Environmental Commission published a statement dismissing the canal as potentially one of the biggest interventions into the ecosystem of the Czech Republic and Central Europe, saying the environmental cost would be ruinous for short-term economic gain. The non-parliamentary Czech Green Party are also against.
President Zeman’s captivation with the idea is nothing new; it was also supported by Václav Havel and others. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV was the first to envisage a waterway linking the Oder to the Danube back in the 14th century, and subsequent rulers have toyed with it ever since.