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5th Anniversary of Danube Biosphere Reserve: the Ukraine Authorities Try to Divide It

Dear colleagues!

Since 2000, as you know, the Ministry of Transport of Ukraine lobbies the construction of navigable channel the Danube - the Black Sea in especially protected zone of the Danube Biosphere reserve, through Bystroye estuary. The public campaign in protection of the reserve lasts since the end of 2001, but in 2003 the significant events that in our opinion need comment have happened.

In the end of November 2002 the Minister of transport G.Kirpa have submitted to L.Kouchma, the President of Ukraine, the project of President's decree on separation of 5600 hectares of area of the Danube Biosphere reserve for construction of navigable channel. Given draft was declined after the President's administration received more than 300 fax and e-mail messages with protests against construction from more than 60 countries of the world. President of Ukraine L.Kouchma evaded making the decision of the problem and charged the Council of National Security of Ukraine with solution of the problem of restoration of navigation on Ukrainian part of Danube.

In the face of the European Ministerial Conference "Kiev-2003" the Ukrainian authorities haven't took the risk of making the definite decision on the urgent problem. During all the spring conferences were held on this issue. The reaction of public on these conferences were letters of protest against construction of the channel through the territory of the reserve. Thanks to your concern the Danube reserve have lived up to the European Ministerial Conference.

After the conference "Kiev-2003" the events around the reserve became speed up: the most important action, which drew attention of all the world to Ukraine have passed into history. the European Ministerial Conference was closed 23rd May and 6th June the session of the Security Council of Ukraine was held, which was devoted to the question of Danube delta. 10th June on basing on the decision of the Security Council the President of Ukraine have signed the decree which concerns existence of the reserve and the prospects of construction of navigation canal in the delta of Danube. The President's decree contained mainly the instructions to the Government of Ukraine:
- to held in three months a state environmental impact assessment and to choose the variant of deep-water channel "the Danube - the Black Sea", then to create "experimental" navigation channel;
- to "optimize" the borders of the Danube Biosphere reserve including its especially protected area, withdrawing the branches of Danube "necessary for development of water transport";
- to submit in two months the proposals on change of the Law of Ukraine "On Natural and Reserve Resources" for realization of Seville Strategy for biosphere reserves and for improvement of management by Danube Biosphere reserve.

It is necessary to note that the decree contains cunning decision "to create experimental navigation channel" - because it is quite possible to lay a channel through the area of the reserve as an experiment. The experiment would be, to all appearances, on the unique natural area.

Judging by the following actions of Ukraine authorities, by "optimization of the borders" and "change of the law for realization of Seville Strategy" is implied the increase in economical activity on the territories of natural reserves in Ukraine. Up to now the Ukraine legislation somehow prevented from their destruction.

It is remarkable that the decree in such words that it can have many interpretations. One of the interpretations - supported by the Ministry of Transport of Ukraine and the representatives - says as if the decree allows withdrawal of all the water area from the reserve.

But even after "as though" withdrawal of the water the total area of the reserve in the documents hasn't been changed. With what it would be compensated and whether the lawmakers thought about accordance of the areas, it is impossible to understand. In addition no applications were receives by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine on this issue, though any change of the reserve must be authorized by the ministry according to the law.

According to Ukrainian legislation, the essential part of state impact assessment is environmental assessment of the project. It was realized on given project in 2001 and was rejected by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources because in the documents the alternative variants of channel construction weren't considered, and infringement of legislation was made in it: the projects such as navigable channel are prohibited by the law.

In the documents of the new assessment set by the President's decree in 2003 and made by the representatives of Kiev National University all the same breaches of the law were committed, and many other infringements were added. First of all it bases on the assumption that Bystroye estuary will be withdrawn from the reserve. Second, the biodiversity in those documents was estimated by the geologists. Third, the conclusion of the assessment is based only on the documents that give preference to construction of the channel through Bystroye estuary and ignore other variants. The public opinion weren't considered in the assessment.

So, the second assessment haven't took into account the requirements of the Ministry of Ecology and Nature Resources of Ukraine to the previous assessment. Nevertheless in July 2003 it was approved by A.Gritsenko, the deputy minister of ecology and nature resources.

Following the incomprehensible decision of the deputy minister, the radical environmental organization "Earth Above All!" have held the piquet in front of the Ministry in the August. No official reaction of the piquet was published at all.

After that, 2nd August 2003 Kiev Environmental and Cultural Center and "Pechenegi" environmental group lodge a complaint against the conclusions of the assessment made by Kiev National University to V.Yanukovitch, the prime minister of Ukraine.

August 10 is 5th anniversary of foundation of the Danube Biosphere reserve.

Dear friends, please, send your congratulations to the reserve. Its collective is in difficulties now and our moral support would be a great support: it is essential for them as never before to feel that they aren't alone in their fight.

The e-mail of the collective of the Danube Biosphere reserve:

S.Shaparenko, "Pechenegi" environmental group,
Ukraine Coalition "For Wild Nature"

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