RIGA - For both environmental and economic reasons, the Environment and Transport ministries said they strongly opposed the proposal to build a canal between the Daugava and Dnieper rivers that would link the Baltic and Black seas.
Environment Minister Raimonds Vejonis said the project could have detrimental effects on the chemical quality of the Daugava's water and offset its natural flow.
Didzis Jonovs, an adviser to the environment minister, said that the construction would both deepen the riverbed and cause other ecological transformations. In turn, these changes could seriously threaten the natural environment along the Daugava, including those places covered by Natura 2000's European list of protected natural areas.
As a result, Latvia could run into difficulties meeting both local and EU environmental protection requirements.
Moreover, most of Riga's drinking water comes from the Daugava, the quality of which could be jeopardized if the project were carried out.
The Transport Ministry, which found the project unfeasible for economic reasons, has not yet clarified its final opinion on the matter.
A spokesman from the Transport Ministry said the ministry did not see the project as being economically feasible and that the task force examining the plan, after being disbanded by the previous minister, has not yet been ordered to resume its work.
At the same time, however, the ministry backed a preliminary study of the transit project.
While Latvia has not yet officially rejected or supported the project, Ukraine and Belarus are reportedly preparing for the construction of the Daugava-Dnieper canal.
Prime Minister Indulis Emsis asked the Environment, Transport and Economy ministries to submit a complete assessment of the project's relevant aspects and their opinions by July 5.
"I think that the idea raised several years ago is not currently as realistic for Latvia as it was. I think the matter should be closed because it looks like it cannot be implemented," the prime minister said.
The 2,230 kilometer transit route, linking the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, is estimated to cost at least $5 billion. It would wind through Latvia at an approximate length of 330 kilometers. The expected growth of cargo flow that will result from the project is a matter of interest not only to the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine and Turkey, but to other countries surrounding the Baltic and Black seas.