Young parliamentarians act to save Europe's water

Barges blocked near a lock on the Rhine in eastern France Keystone

More than 60 young parliamentarians from across Europe have drafted an action plan to save the continent’s major rivers and lakes, following a series of meetings in Switzerland.

This content was published on October 13, 2003 - 17:39

Members of the European Youth Parliament said not enough was being done to combat pollution and protect water resources.

Young parliamentarians from ten countries took part in sessions in cantons Graubünden and Ticino in eastern Switzerland.

All of the 14-18 year olds hailed from areas drained by the Rhine, Rhone, Po and Danube rivers.

“We talked about common problems and worked to find solutions for these problems,” Raimund Pirkl, a student from Austria, told swissinfo.

“We also made contact with local people and asked them what water problems they faced and how they can be resolved,” added Swiss student André Farreira.

Working groups examining the issues facing Europe’s four major rivers gathered in Chur at the weekend to present a common plan of action.

Year of Freshwater

The 5th European Youth Parliament for Water was organised by Solidarity Water Europe and supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, as part of the United Nations Year of Freshwater.

Delegates said the key to preserving waterways was a change in mentality, especially in recognising the knock-on effects of pollution.

“People need to understand that when I pollute water in Switzerland, it will affect those living in Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria,” said Pirkl.

Delegates hope to establish a dialogue with farmers to encourage them to work the land in a way that respects the environment.

They also aim to campaign against the dumping of toxic waste and chemicals in rivers.

Solidarity

“We’re planning to set up a communication platform on the internet to improve dialogue among countries,” explained Pirkl.

Parliamentarians say this should facilitate efforts between schools and students to protect water sources both above and below the ground.

“We also want to set up a school exchange system so that our school in Austria can come to Switzerland or go to the Danube delta in Romania to see how the river looks in another country. This would improve solidarity,” continued Pirkl.

Young parliamentarians are to present their action plan to a commission of the European Parliament. But delegates said they were not banking on a big response from Brussels.

“I expect they’ll read it and perhaps include it in their plans for the future. But that isn’t actually the most important thing,” said Pirkl.

“We, the students, want to do something, because that is the only way things will change - when we start to act.”

swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin

Water

65 students from ten countries participated in the Fifth European Youth Parliament for Water conference.

The week-long session was held at venues across Switzerland.

Delegates examined the problems facing Europe’s four main waterways: the Rhine, Rhone, Po and Danube rivers.

They presented a common plan of action to conserve these water sources at a final meeting in Chur, canton Graubünden.

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