3. Choice A envisages a waterway situated in the "Bystre Gyrlo" branch of the
Danube, cutting across the middle of the core zone (Nature Reserve) of the
DBR and Ramsar Site - part of the transboundary Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve
and Ramsar Site in Ukraine and Romania. The Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences,
responsible for managing the DBR through its offices at Vilkovo, considers this
proposal unacceptable. Other institutions, including numerous environmental NGOs in
Ukraine and abroad, criticised the proposal. During our meeting with NGO
representatives in Odesa, all participants speaking in the discussion, except for a representative of the Green Party, criticised this choice and the procedure of its adoption by the Ministry of Transport. Their two main arguments against Choice A are the environmetal damage it would provoke, and its unfavourable impact on the core zone of the DBR and Ramsar Site. However, the Ministry of Transport and the state enterprise Delta Pilot (Delta Lotsman) consider Choice A as the most feasible and most economic solution, claiming that its environmental impact would be minimal. Their view is supported by a State Ecological Expertise, approved by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources on 10 July 2003, by statements of some scientists from Odesa and Kyiv universities, and by the conclusions of a workshop, specially convened in Odesa on 16-20 October 2003, with scientists from the Ukraine and some other countries, invited by the advocates of Choice A.
4. Choice B proposes the renewal and modernisation of the hitherto used waterway along the "Ochakivsky Rukav" Danube branch and Prorva canal in the northernmost part of the delta (in the transition area of the Biosphere Reserve, along the northern boundary of the core zone), and of the short "technical canal" linking these Danube branches with the Ust'-Dunaysk port on the Zhebryanskaya bay of the Black Sea. This choice, whose impact on valuable parts of the DBR is claimed to be minimal, is favoured by the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, the management office of the DBR and numerous NGOs as a permanent or temporary solution before the materialization of choice C (see below). According to them, choice B can be accomplished relatively easily, in a short time and at a relatively low cost.
5. Choice C concerns the construction of a sluiced canal in the northern part of the DBR (in the transition area), linking the "Solomonov Rukav" branch of the Danube with the Zhebryanskaya bay of the Black Sea. Choice C is a variant of an earlier proposal, made by engineer Chekhovich at the beginning of the 20th century, for a canal running parallel about 1 km apart. This choice is considered as being feasible and sustainable in the long-term by the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, the management office of the DBR, and numerous NGOs. The durability of the canal would, in their opinion, justify its high construction costs (financed from private sources). Geologists and geographers of Odesa University criticise choice C because of its environmental impact on the only ancient dune system in the Ukrainian part of the Danube delta. As the canal would cut only through the edge of the ancient dune system, and as most of the old dunes are planted with non-native black pine, biologists from the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences and the management office of the DBR regard the environmental impact of choice C as marginal.
6. On 13 October 2003 (just prior to our mission), the Ukrainian Government allegedly approved the principle of choice A, proposed by the Delta Pilot state company and the Ukrainian Ministry of Transport. On 27 October 2003, according to the NGO campaign, this decision was cancelled. The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources informed the mission that it was now asking for environmental impact assessments of all three choices, and possibly others, to be submitted by May/June 2004. Only then will the Ministry adopt a final view with respect to these choices.
7. The respective locations of the proposed alternative waterways, and of existing ones, are shown in the attached map of the DBR (Figure 1). The dotted line no. 1 is the canal proposed earlier by Chekhovich, no. 2 is the present proposal of a sluiced canal (choice C), no. 3 is the existing, but narrow and unsuitable irrigation canal Danube-Sasyk Lake, nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7 denote the possible routings of restored waterways using mainly the Ochakivsky branch (choice B), no. 8 is the Bystre branch (choice A), with a dotted line indicating the necessary proposed construction of a leveed canal cutting across the sand bars at the mouth of Bystre into the Black Sea. Nos. 9 and 10 are the Cyganka Gyrlo and Starostambulske Gyrlo branches.