More about the danube biosphere reserve and the problem
Ukraine is planning to
construct a deep-water navigation canal "The Danube - The Black Sea".
The Ministry of Transport of Ukraine insists on pursuing a variant
which passes through an the Bystroye Estuary of the Danube Delta, which is
located within the specially protected area of the Danube Biosphere Reserve.
The Danube Reserve is part of the UNESCO bilateral biosphere reserve "Delta
of the Danube". According to Ukrainian national legislation, law prohibits
such activity in a specially protected area of a biosphere reserve.
Recently, it came to light that the Ministry of Transport of Ukraine is
going to issue a Decree signed by the President to withdraw the Bystroye
Estuary from the Danube Biosphere Reserve.
The Bystroye Estuary is not deep enough for the planned canal;
therefore it is planned to deepen the estuary. Since the Danube transfers on
average 65 millions tons of firm particles per year, the appropriate depth
of the canal should be maintained artificially, by continuous removal of
sediment from the bed of the canal. In addition, it is planned to cover the
banks with concrete. The canal will make the stream stronger and quicker,
resulting in the washing out to sea of the sandbank in front of the estuary.
According to the conclusions of Ukrainian experts, the construction of
the canal through the Bystroye Estuary will result in the following
- The construction and operation of the canal will change the
hydrological balance of the delta - it will enhance the run-off in Bystroe
estuary and make it less for other estuaries - which will lead to harmful
consequences both for natural ecosystems and for town Vilkovo water supply
- Canal operation will lead to oil and oil product pollution of the
- The construction works and operation of the canal will cause damage
to the habitat and feeding base of the majority of the fish species dwelling
in this area, including 7 species which are listed in the European Red List
and the 16 listed in Red Book of Ukraine. Also, as the result of feeding
ground damage, the annual freshwater fish catch will go down for 19 tonns,
and marine fish catch - for 80 tonns.
- The spawning migration of the Danube herring (Alosa pontica
(Eichwald) passes through the Bystroye Estuary. The construction and
operation of the canal will destroy the natural course of breeding of this
fish that will reduce its industrial catch by 90 tons, and will also
threaten its life.
- The waves caused by ships passing through canal will lead to the
fish, including danube herring, youth death.
- Deepening of the canal bottom and permanent works to sustain its
condition will lead to death for the youth of valuable trade and rare fish:
Acipenseridae, Gymnocephalus schraetser, Zingel zingel and Z. streber
- Construction of embankments on the banks of the Bystroye Estuary
will spoil the spawning conditions of many fish species.
- The sandbank in front of the Bystroye is the foraging area of many
commercially fished species. The construction and operation of the canal,
and also the subsequent washing away of the sandbank will destroy the
- In the Danube Biosphere Reserve, 257 kinds of birds are present, 9
of them are on European Red List, 42 of them are listed in the Red Book of
Ukraine. It is a habitat for thousands of wetland-dwelling birds. It is
nesting ground for 1000 couples of Phalacrocorax pygamaeus, 3 couples of
Haliaeetus albicilla. During the seasonal accumulation upto 2.500 Pelecanus
onocrotalus and up to 80 Pelecanus crispus are found. Up to 800
Phalacrocorax pygamaeus, up to 900 Rufibrenta ruficollis and up to 35 of
Haliaeetus albicilla are wintering within the Ukrainian part of the Danube
reserve. Withing the direct impact zone of the ship course, mainly sandbank
area, 223 bird species are found, 5 of them from European Red list, 31 from
the Red Book of Ukraine.
The construction and operation of the canal will result in losses to
their mass nesting area; breeding conditions of the birds will be worsened,
and the places of rest, feed and wintering will be lost. Thus, the
construction of the canal through the Bystroye Estuary threatens the very
existence of "The Danube Delta", part of the Ramsar Reserve in Ukraine.
- The reserve vascular plant community encounters 950 species, 3 of
which are on the European Red List, 16 - in the Red Book of Ukraine. Within
the proposed canal construction area half of the species is growing, there
are almost no immigrant species.
The plaint community of the reserve is significantly different from
plat communties of other deltas of north-west Black Sea coast. It has
majorly water and wetland communities inhabiting up to 80% fo the area.
The construction work impact on the plant community will be two-sided:
the ship waves impact will cause to change in plant communities - many
species, including rare, will vanish. On the other hand, permanent ship
communication will bring invasive species (some of them quarantine) in.
Changes in hidrological regime of Kilian Delta of Danube will lead to
speeded euthrophication of the inner water ponds, disappearance of small
estuaries, general turning of wetlands into meadows. This will also
negatively influence one of the most important ecological functions of the
Danube Delta - biofiltration.
- The proposed canal will break the core zone of the biosphere
reserve and will result in increased noise pollution in 5 km zone around
canal, and negative influences on the fauna of the reserve.
The reserve territory is a constant or temporary habitat for rare and
endangered insects, amphibia and reptiles, many of which are on European red
list or in the Red book of the Ukraine. The habitation of the majority of
mentioned vulnerable species are intolerant to any similar activity.
The livelihoods in the area near the mouth of the Danube are based
mainly on fishery. The construction of the canal threatens to undermine this
branch of trade, and may destroy the traditional system of management in the
region. Therefore, not only scientific and environmental organizations, but
also local residents and authorities oppose building the canal through
Construction of the navigation canal "the Danube - the Black Sea"
through Bystroye Estuary will cause degradation of natural communities in
the Danube Delta, as well as destroy traditional forms of nature management,
and can result in the worsening of social and economic conditions in the
region. In other words, realization of this project will violate the
principles of management of biosphere reserves defined by UNESCO in its "The
Man and Biosphere" Program.
And as a result, the building of the canal through the Bystroye Estuary
threatens the very existence of Danube Biosphere Reserve and Ukrainian
Ramsar lands "The Danube Delta".
We do not oppose navigation in the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta
in principle. The canal should be built. Nevertheless, the construction
works should be carried out in such a manner as to cause a minimal amount of
harm to the unique natural biosphere of the delta. It should be constructed
outside of the biosphere reserve. Alternative variants of conducting of the
canal were developed, however Ukrainian authorities persistently do not
Ukrainian scientific and public organizations have been campaigning
against the "cutting" of the Danube reserve since the end of 2001. About 30
appeals have been sent to the President and Prime Minister of Ukraine, about
1000 signatures in defence of the reserve have been collected, and press
conferences and demonstrations have been conducted.
The Vilkov Municipal Council (local authority) also opposes this
variant of the canal, confirmed by its resolution of November 22, 2001.
However, Ukrainian authorities ignore public opinion and the position of the
Therefore, we are extremely apprehensive that the authorities of
Ukraine, violating national legislation and international obligations, will
make the decision to build the canal through Bystroye Estuary. Besides
posing a threat to the Danube Reserve, such a decision can create a
dangerous precedent of altering borders of many other Ukrainian reserves.
We address to you, as representative of the international community, a
request to make all possible efforts to prevent the construction of the
canal "the Danube - the Black sea" through the Danube Biosphere Reserve.
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