26. There was a general agreement by all Ukrainian parties on the need for the construction of a waterway through the Ukrainian part of the Danube delta. Analyses of earlier investigations show that no ideal solution is possible. The Government of Ukraine is to be supported in its continued efforts to find the best possible solution, taking the unique situation of this area into account, as demonstrated by its recognition as being of international importance by the UNESCO Man-and-Biosphere Programme and the Convention on Wetlands.
27. In the short time it had available, the mission learnt about the positions of all major stakeholders at national and local level, regarding the three alternatives proposed for the location of a waterway: choice A through the natural Bystre Danube river branch, choice B to re-open the formerly used Ochakivsky Danube river branch, and choice C planning the construction of a sluiced canal from the Solomonov Danube branch to the Zhebryanskaya bay of the Black Sea. In order to make a well-informed decision, the Government of Ukraine needs to have at its disposal the results of a comprehensive environmental impact assessment comparing all three choices. It is therefore recommended that an impartial study be undertaken rapidly, covering not only socio-economic, navigation and geomorphological aspects, but also those related to biodiversity (species and natural habitats). The reports already established and presented to the mission do not yet fulfil this need.
28. As it is not feasible to construct a waterway outside of the Danube Biosphere Reserve (for its excessive costs), all three remaining choices will afflict some environmental damage on the highly dynamic natural ecosystem. An illustration of the delta dynamics is provided in the attached map of mean annual land advance or retreat (in metres per year) along the Black Sea coast in the Kyliya delta area (Figure 2). It is therefore important to restrict those impacts to an utmost minimum and to compensate for inavoidable damage. Preventing damage rather than repairing it ex post, is the cheaper option when taking all environmental aspects into account. Ecological compensation measures need to be planned and executed in parallel with the planning for the construction of a waterway. Their success in terms of the protection of indicator species and natural habitats and processes needs to be monitored.
29. Based on these premises, and comparing the three choices outlined above, the mission considers that choice A (Bystre) would represent the worst solution. This is because of the damage choice A would afflict on the natural environment and the costs and time associated to undertake the necessary compensation mesasures required by the particular protection status of the area afflicted.
30. Among the three alternatives analysed, choice B (Ochakivsky) proves to be the most feasible and most widely accepted solution for the short to middle term. It would provide rapid socio-economic benefits by repairing and using existing infrastructure of the Ust'-Dunaisk port facilities. However, in the long term, it is preferable to remove these port facilities outside of the Danube Biosphere Reserve, as advocated by many stakeholders.
31. In the long term, the most sustainable solution is to construct a waterway outside of the dynamic part of the delta area. To this end, choice C (sluiced canal), or an improved variant (cf. paragraphs 16, 17), can provide a feasible proposal with minimal environmental impact. The mission was told that its heavy investment costs could be borne by private sources. In any case, there is a trade-off to be gained through lower maintenance costs in the long run, compared to the other two choices.
32. In addition to the ecological compensation measures needed for each of the choices, mentioned above, additional measures to improve the functioning of the Danube Biosphere Reserve need to be undertaken, notably to define its zonation according to the MaB guidelines, to prepare and implement an integrated management plan with the participation of the local communities, to monitor key ecological indicators of the Reserve and to develop its visitor and tourist infrastructure in the context of the local socio-economic development of Vilkovo.