Socio-ecological Union
Projects and campaigns

RESOLUTION
of the Forum of the NGOs from the Danube River Basin

"LET'S SAVE THE DANUBE BIOSPHERE RESERVE"

approved 6 October 2004
Odessa, Ukraine

We, the representatives of NGOs from 7 European countries, have concluded the following:

RECOGNISING the efforts of the Ukrainian Government to promote the socio-economic development of the Danube region and to increase the well-being of its people by revitalizing the shipping on the Danube;

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the high internatioinal status of the Danube Delta as one of the most important European wetlands, part of the UNESCO "Danube Delta" Biosphere Reserve, the biggest reedbed complex in the world, Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance, and one of the 200 Global ecoregions selected by WWF;

TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION the value of the natural complexes on the territory of Bystre Gyrlo as an indispensable part of the UNESCO "Danube Delta" Biosphere Reserve and Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance;

RECOGNISING that the option of the canal via Gyrlo Bystre is economically unjustified, environmentally damaging, and chosen without comprehensive consideration of other alternatives;

ADMITTING the lack of public participation and consequent breach of Aarhus Convention and relevant national legislation by official bodies of Ukraine, Beneficiary of the project, and project developers;

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT that the transboundary effects were not considered;

RECOGNISING that the withdrawal of all waterbodies and waterways from the Danube Biosphere Reserve, Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance on initiative of the Ministry of Transport is an unprecedented occurrence both for the Ukrainian and international standards;

CONSIDERING that the lack of constructive cooperation between Romania and Ukraine as well as other affected countries concerning the development of the navigation has led to negative transboundary impacts on the hydrology of the river, limited the information exchange, prevented reaching agreement on location of the territory where the dredged silt and clay are deposited, and on methods to assess the damage of the Danube ecosystem;

The Forum has stated the following:
1. The environmental NGOs have never opposed and are not opposing the revitalizing of the shipping in the Ukrainian part of the Delta. However, the way the currently constructed option has been selected and the option itself cause very serious concerns.

2. The construction of the shipping canal via Bystre Gyrlo has been carried out in environmentally unsound manner, with the breach of the technological processes contained in the project proposal:
* The dredging works have been carried out during the spawning period;
* During the dredging the double transportation of the excavated silt and clay took place when it has been temporarily deposited in the coastal 5km zone.

3. As a result of these breaches and barbaric and rushed manner of the construction as well as due to the natural sensitivity of the delta ecosystem, the realization of this project has led to:
* the death of 2 nesting bird colonies of common (120 nests) and sandwich (950 and 430 nests) terns on the Ptashina Spit;
* further formation of a mineral deposits in Vostochne Gyrlo southward of the Bystre;
* damaging the natural complexes of the Yermakov Island while depositing the dredged silt and clay on it.

4. While constructing the shipping canal via Bystre the complex environmental monitoring was lacking, as a result it is impossible to assess the indirect global consequences from this project and in particular the re-distribution of the water discharge and the consequential processes as well as to assess the environmental impact of this project.

5. By implementing this project, Ukraine has breached national legisaltion of Ukraine and a number of international conventions ratified by Ukraine (Ramsar Convention, UNESCO Convention, Bern and Bonn Conventions, Aarhus and Espoo Conventions, Danube Convention and Agreement on African-Eurasian migratory waterbeird species, European Landscape Convention).

6. The State Ecological Expertise of the technical documentation and consequently of this project are not scientifically grounded, do not take public opinion into consideration and are not objective. The process of ecological expertisa didn't follow the requirements of Espoo Convention.

7. While making a decision to implement a project via Bystre Gyrlo there was no comprehensive analyses of the alternatives and the recommendations of the international experts of UNESCO and Ramsar were ignored

8. During the whole process, since 2001 until present, the real facts and data concerning the environmental and economic content of the project have been often misrepresented and falsified. The public was constantly misinformed by massive campaigns in mass media.

The change of protective status of the Bystre Branch from the core zone of the Biosphere Reserve into anthropogenic landscapes zone has been done without any scientific considerations due to transportation needs. The Forum would like to inform that at the moment the Ukrainian Scientific Research Institute on Ecology is developing proposal on new zonation of the Danube Biosphere Reserve. As a result of this, additional territories will be downgraded from the core zone status into the anthropological landscape zone including the banks of the Potapivske and Starostambuske Branches without any scientific justification. The participants of the Forum consider such changes to be unacceptable and to break the international commitments of Ukraine and will lead to the degradation of the natural complexes of the Danube Biosphere Reserve.


The participants of the Forum consider unacceptable the pressure, constant checks, inspections and prosecution of the Director of the Biosphere Reserve A.N.Voloshkevitch, on the instigations of the State Enterprise Delta Lotsman.

The Forum would like to bring to your attention that the situation with the Danube Biosphere Reserve reflects the situation in Ukraine and shows the real attitude of the Ukrainian officials to the nature reserves.

The Danube Biosphere Resrve is not the only one that is being destroyed because of the commercial interests, it just happens to be the most famous one among many others.


Taking into account the above mentioned the Forum CALLS UPON :

1. To stop the development and construction of the canal via Bystre Gyrlo until a transboundary impact assessment by international organizations has been carried out.

2. To suggest to the European Commission considering system of sanctions to the Government of Ukraine because of the construction of the shipping canal Danube Black Sea via Bystre Gyrlo.

3. To recognize the breach by the Government of Ukraine of the International Conventions by implementing this project.

4. To compensate the damage caused to the natural complexes of the Danube Biosphere Reserve as a result of the construction and current operation of the shipping canal via Bystre Gyrlo.

5. To call upon the European Commission to assist the Government of Ukraine to develop methodology to assess the environmental impact on the protected territories (In particular methods to assess the negative impact on water birds).

6. To call upon the European Commission to assist the Government of Ukraine with development of the alternatives for the shipping canal Danube - Black Sea.

7. To call upon the European Commission to assist the Government of Ukraine with assessment of the results of the monitoring of the negative impacts as a result of the construction of the shipping canal (carried out by Chernomorniiproekt) and Proposal on organization of the territories and protection of the natural complexes of the Danube Biosphere Reserve (being developed by the Ukrainian Scintific Research Institute of Ecology). International organizations should be involved.

8. To cancel the present zonation of the Danube Biosphere Reserve and approve the zonation prescribed by the initial Presidential Decree on Establishment of the Danube Biosphere Reserve. To introduce a moratorium on futher changes in zonation of the Danube Biosphere Reserve.

9. To involve and seek approval of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in all cases concerning the Danube Biosphere Reserve issues.

10. To encourage a more active use of the existing structures (eg Danube Euroregion etc.) to assess and mitigate the anthropogenic impacts on the ecosystem of the Danube and to secure the sustainable development of the region.

11. To stop criminal prosecution against the Director of the Danube Biosphere Reserve A.N.Voloshkevitch and the constant inspections of the the Reserve.

12. To carry out international ecological monitoring of the present state of the nature reserves and national parks of Ukraine.

13. To ask WWF to consider the Director of the Reserve A.N Voloshkevitch for WWF award for conservation merit.


Appendix

MISREPRESENTATION OF SEVERAL FACTS RELATED TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CANAL BY THE GOVERNMENT OF UKRAINE
In response to the negative reaction of the Ukrainian and international NGOs and individuals, Ukrainian officials have started an information campaign about the project that is not always true:

1) It has been stated on several occasions that it is not the new canal that is being constructed via the Bystre Gyrlo but merely a restoration of the old one. This is not true. There has never been commercial shipping in the Bystre Gyrlo. The only vessels that ever sailed along Bystre were fishing boats with the up to 1,5 - 2,0 m;

2) It has also been stated that the opposition to the construction of the canal via Bystre breach the right of Ukraine to revitalize the shipping on its soveregn territory. And again this statement is not true, as the canal via Bystre is the the only possible option and there are alternatives that make economic and environmental sense: options via Zhebriyanska Bay or Ochakiv Branch;

3) It has been stated that the shipping canal via Bystre does not have an impact on ecological balance of the delta and has no damaging effects. Not true because as the result of construction the colony of terns died and the water discharge in the Kiliya branch has already altered;

4) It has been stated that the construction of the sluice canal through the Zhebriyanskaya Bay cannot be implemented without explaining any reasons;

5) It has been stated that the core zone of the Danube Biosphere Reserve consists of separate areas, while according to the Presidential Decree on Establishment of the Danube Biosphere Reserve is one long stripe.


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