Socio-ecological Union
Projects and campaigns

The plans of Ukraine government threaten Danube delta reserve

The Danube Delta Biosphere reserve is threatened by the plans of the Transport Ministry of Ukraine for more than a year.

The Ukrainian environmentalists draw public attention to the problem of the Danube Delta Biosphere reserve.

On the press conference held in Kiev in the beginning of November they have stated their intention further to insist on building of a navigation canal outside the reserve. They have emphasised the fact, that they do not oppose the idea of navigation in the delta of Danube in general, they only demand observance of the Ukrainian legislation and the international agreements.

The environmental community of Ukraine is anxious with the policy of the Ukrainian Government concerning creation of the navigation canal from Danube to the Black Sea. The Transport Ministry of Ukraine lobbies its building through the Bystroye estuary (the Danube delta), on the especially protected area of Danube Delta Biosphere reserve. This territory is the part of UNESCO's Bilateral Biosphere Reserve 'The Delta of Danube'.

The Ukrainian legislation forbids any industrial and transport activity in especially protected areas of biosphere reserves. As it became known, now the Transport Ministry of Ukraine have developed the Decree of the President of Ukraine about withdrawal of the Bystroye estuary from the Danube Delta Biosphere reserve.

The depth of the Bystroye estuary is not enough for the proper operation of the canal, and therefore it is planned to deepen the estuary. The Danube carries out 65 millions tons of solid particles per year on average, consequently the appropriate depth of the canal should be maintained artificially, permanently taking out the ground from the bed of the canal. It is also planned to strengthen the banks of the canal by embankments. The canal will intensify the stream in Bystroye, that would result in washing out of the sand-bar (the sea shoal in front of the estuary).

According to the conclusions of the Ukrainian experts, the construction of the channel through Bystroye estuary will result in such consequences as:

  1. Change of hydrological balance of the delta, pollution of the canal by oil products, noise pollution of neighbouring areas, that, for its part, will result in negative consequences, both for natural complexes of delta and for water consumption in Vilkovo town.

  2. There are populations of thousands of water-and-marsh and near-water species of plants and animals in the Danube Biosphere reserve. Many of them are under threat of disappearance and included in The Red Book of Ukraine and European Red List (for example, the curly pelican and rogue beetle.

    The area of reserve is the feeding and spawning (breeding) place of many species of trade fish and also the fishes listed in the Red Book. As result of construction and operation of the canal their natural habitat conditions would be undermined, the fragile ecosystem would gradually degrade and the unique biological diversity would be irretrievably lost.

  3. The navigation canal through the Bystroye estuary threatens the existence of the Danube Biosphere reserve, which is included in the UNESCO's world system of biosphere reserves. According to Ramsar Convention it is the water-and-marsh land of international value. The leaders of these organizations have already expressed their apprehensions about the situation with the construction of the canal on the area of reserve.

    There is no doubt that such short-sighted actions of the Ukrainian Government will cause international scandal and could obstruct the integration of Ukraine into Europe.

  4. The industry in the area near the mouth of Danube is mainly based on fishery. The given canal project threatens to undermine this branch of industry, to destroy the current management system in the region. Therefore, scientists and environmental organizations and also the local residents and local administration express their opinion against the canal through Bystroye estuary.
  5. In addition to the real threat to the Danube reserve such decision of the government is able to establish a dangerous precedent of intervention of economic interests in other reserve areas.
  6. Building of the canal through Danube Biosphere reserve violates the right of unexplored wilderness for freedom and even for existence.

Building of navigation canal "The Danube - The Black Sea" through the Bystroye estuary will result in a partial degradation of natural complexes of Danube delta, destroy the traditional managing forms. Also it is able to result in aggravation of the social and economic connections in the region. In other words, this project violates the principles of biosphere reserves functioning, in particular the UNESCO Program "Human and the Biosphere".

We do not oppose reconstruction of navigation in the Ukrainian part of the Danube delta in general. Nevertheless, the process of its building should put the minimal damage to unique natural biosphere of the delta. The canal should be laid outside the especially protected area of the biosphere reserve. There are the alternative variants of the canal construction, however the Ukraine authorities persistently do not consider them.

The scientific institutions and NGOs conduct the campaign against dividing of the Danube Biosphere reserve since the end of 2001. About 30 appeals to the President and Prime minister of Ukraine were sent, about 1000 signatures for protection of reserve were collected, the press conferences and pickets are held.

The municipal administration, Vilkovo town council, has also opposes the acceptance of the given variant of the canal construction. It was confirmed by the decision of the council from November 22, 2001. But the Government of Ukraine ignores the public opinion and the position of the local administration.

Therefore we afraid that the Ukrainian Government will make the decision to build the canal through the Bystroye estuary, in spite of violation of national legislation and the international obligations of Ukraine, and all the inevitable consequences of that decision.

Back to "Save the Danube biosphere reserve!" page