Croatia's new river regulation projects risk wiping out endangered species and run counter to the laws of the European Union that it aspires to join, the environmental WWF warned Thursday.
"We are very much concerned that new planned river regulation projects along all major rivers in Croatia are threatening unique natural areas and counteracting efforts of the EU to bring water management in line with EU policy and law," said WWF Austria expert Arno Mohl in a statement.
At issue are large-scale river regulation schemes planned by the Croatian water management authority, including sediment extraction and irrigation projects along the Danube, Drava, Mura, Sava and Neretva rivers.
These plans "would transform the natural meandering river stretches into a unified canal, fixed by stones, groins and embankments," the WWF statement said.
WWF warned that some 440 kilometers (273 miles) of natural river stretches of the Danube and Sava rivers could be regulated and destroyed, which is against the EU Water Framework Directive.
It would also impact Europe's largest floodplain forests and wetland areas and lead to the loss of several endangered species, it said.
It urged the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, to ensure the projects were properly regulated and warned they could undermine Croatia's accession to the EU.
A delegation of local non-governmental groups, WWF and German-based foundation EuroNatur handed a protest letter on the matter to the head of the EU delegation here.
Croatia hopes to join the EU in 2012. (source: france24.com)