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There is still hope for the Danube Delta

    Romulus Stiuca-the director of the Danube Delta Institute- 'The Romanian specialists have solutions to limit the consequences of the Bystroe Canal'.
    The National Institute of Research and Development of the Danube Delta has an encyclopedic structure. Its occupation consists of studies and hydrologic modelation, it makes the assessment of natural habitats, pollution, fish communities, animals, plants, human communities, of the impact that various actions might have on the delta, the migration of fish, for example, the sturgeons-a very important business from which Romania earns 5 million euros a year. It is the center of Excellence of the European Union for Deltas and Wetlands and it also is the only institute in Europe which has these competences. It is hard to assume that there is another institution to know better the delta's closeness, the problems of this menaced ecologic paradise.
' We won't let things evolve in the direction of a catastrophic scenario'
    -It's been a while since the Delta is under the worst threat from its entire existence. Have you already done an assessment of the effects that the opening of Bystroe Canal will have?
    -Yes, we have already done a preliminary assessment of the environmental impact that the Ukrainian canal might have on our delta, the evaluation starts from the poor data that we have from the Ukrainian part. Thereafter, there is a thoroughgoing study of the impact on the environment, which will contain all the ecologic and economic studies. We estimate here the most severe effects of the Ukrainian canal. Of course, we will be analyzing problems related to natural habitats, pollution, fish communities, birds, plants and animals, existent waterways, but also the effect on human communities. In fact, we are going to do what they should have done before, a complete study. I assure you that this study will contain a certain set of measures that should be taken so as the equilibrium of this sensitive area will not to be affected too seriously. This means that on the Romanian part, the Romanian specialists have solutions based on complex hydrologic modeling, through interventions which will be done on the Romanian territory, to limit the consequences of this Ukrainian canal. I assure you that we won't let things evolve in the direction of a catastrophic scenario.
    -Do you want to say that there are solutions to diminish the effects of this canal? That we can do something so as the destruction of the Delta will not be total, and the water level will remain constant where there are pelican colonies in The Letea Forest?
    -That's exactly what I want to say, that there are solutions to preserve the hydrologic equilibrium through some works and that a natural catastrophe can be avoided. Of course, such a canal will have incalculable negative consequences, and we know this too well, because we have been using the Channel of Sulina for 100 years, which is a waterway for big ships, of merchandise and passengers. This is what the Ukrainians want to have, a big canal. The economic advantages are obvious, but the ecologic and social impacts are immense too. What's the point in talking about the construction of such a canal, when we can observe what's happening to us, the effects of the permanent works for the sustenance of the waterway and of the intense traffic of ships on Sulina. Practically, the conditions of the marine fish migration and reproduction, including the traditional fishing of the inhabitants, have disappeared. So, there will still be negative effects caused by the Ukrainian canal. But we are going to limit them. We won't lose our Delta as the most disastrous scenarios we are announcing. Anyway, so that you get a picture, I should tell you that on both banks of Sulina Canal, because of the phonic pollution, of ship circulation, on a distance of 10 km, no bird colony was installed. This is what would happen with Chilia Arm from the moment when it becomes, as the Ukrainian part wants, a waterway for big ships. Birds will disappear and conditions for traditional fishing will be dramatically modified.
' As far as fishing is concerned, the impact will be terrible, and the birds will leave'
    -An apocalyptic vision. Could you describe it from the point of view of a specialist?
    -First of all, the construction and exploitation works on the canal will change the hydrologic regime of the Delta; they will activate the water flow on Bystroe Canal, with repercussions on the lymntrophic ecosystems. Thus, in certain areas of Chilia's Delta, the small linking channels will disappear and the water level of the lakes will come down. The lack of water circulation will lead to the transformation of the actual wetlands into meadows, aspect which will negatively influence the most important function of the Delta: biofiltration. Here, in the area of hydrologic regime, I was telling you that there are some Romanian solutions, which, of course, cost. Another impact in the area will be pollution, because a waterway always implies the risk of pollution. From the point of view of fish communities, the construction and navigation works on the canal will damage the habitat and the trophic basis of the majority of fish species which live in this zone, including 7 species which are listed in the European Red List and 16 species listed in Ukrainian Red List. This Red List contains the species which are menaced menaced and protected. The estimated result of such a destruction of the trophic basis is that the annual quantity of (fresh water) fish caught might come down with 19 tones and the quantity of marine fish with 80 tones. As far as fishing is concerned, the impact will be really terrible. For example, the migration for reproduction of the Danube herring will be done through Bystroe Canal too, and the existence of this canal will imperil the natural development of the population of this species. The fish caught might be cut down with 90 tones. The permanent works on the canal for its maintenance will hinder the development of fish sapling, including sturgeons and herrings, and the dykes will destroy their reproduction zones.
    -What about the birds, for which the Delta is famous in the entire world?
    -Well, for you to understand what we are talking about, I will tell you that in the Reservation there are 257 species of birds, from which 9 are listed in the European Red List and 42 in the Ukrainian Red Book, and that the area affected by the canal represents the habitat of thousands of birds. On the sand banks, the principal impact zone of the route of ships, there are 223 species of birds, from which 36 are protected. Construction works and navigation on the canal will lead to the destruction of nesting areas, the disappearance of places for feeding. Birds will disappear, will leave, the Danube Delta is an important point because it is on a very important migration route, through which species which nest in the center and north of Europe pass. There are 331 species of birds of great European faunistic importance, which are listed in different international conventions for the protection and conservation of species which use this route for migration. All these will be affected. Any human intervention leads to the modification of natural habitats, but the hydrotechnic changes are the ones which have the most severe consequences and affect the entire biome of the Delta, because all the ecosystems are linked. You cannot say: only the fish population will be affected, not the birds and the plants. The arrangement of Bystroe Canal will lead to the transformation of the habitats, not only in the neighborhood, but also in the entire Reservation. The whole ecologic protection from Letea, Rosca-Buhaiova, the islets Babina and Cernovca will be the first affected. All the components of the biodiversity are endangered. The Delta will never be what it used to be.
'However : before it gets to the Ukrainians, the Danube passes through our house...'
    -So, can you draw a conclusion?
    -The conclusion is that we are dealing with one of the most serious menace which has ever been addressed to the Danube Delta and that this Ukrainian initiative questions the existence of the Reservation. The waterway the Danube-the Black Sea through Bystroe will cause the destruction of natural communities and will worsen the socio-economic situation on the Romanian side. One won't be able to make a living from fishing. Moreover, all the sediments carried by the Danube through Bystroe Canal will be deposited by marine currents in the mouth of our canal, Sulina, making very expensive dredging works become necessary. Also, all these silts will lead to irreversible morphologic changes in the contact area the Delta-the Sea. This means that the shape of the sea shore will be modified in our disadvantage. And I do not mention the economic loss due to the loss of transit control from the mouth of the Danube. So, there are solutions to limit these effects. However, before it gets to the Ukrainians, the Danube passes through our home, do you understand? I think that we have solutions to keep what is ours.
    Biologist Dr. BOTOND JACOB KISS, investigator at the Danube Delta Institute, ornithologist 'It is not a sin, it is murder'
    'The Danube Delta is a being infinitely sophisticated, delicate, with infinite facets and nuances. The natural equilibrium of a being such as the Delta is of a superb complexity, but also of an extraordinary fragility. Any inadvertent intervention of humans may lead to unpredictable outcomes, it is hard to predict the consequences of any modification of this natural equilibrium, because the elements of this system have interactions of which we do not know everything. The experience has proved what can happen when one interferes in such a system and we know that the loss can be irreparable. This aspect is evident when we are talking about such an enormous project as the one that the Ukrainians want to carry out against all the international conventions and all the rules. The Delta is a whole which doesn't know anything about borders, it is an organism which, if it's hurt in the Ukrainian part, the consequences will be seen in all its body. And 90% of the Delta is here, in our part. We cannot speak of limiting the consequences in the Ukrainian part. I will give you an example for you to understand how subtle this equilibrium, how delicate are the connections between its elements. Letea Forest is the oldest reservation of the country and it is one of the most extraordinary things we have in the Delta. This exceptional forest is only 15 km from the place where the Ukrainians are excavating the canal. Well, if you visited it, you must see that in this forest the trees follow certain lines, certain oblong directions on the sandy soil, which, in fact, are water tables. When I was a probationer I lived there for a while and there were three wells, at a small distance one from another. The other ones weren't. Their water was different. You realize how delicate is the regime of these water tables, found in such an equilibrium, so that the existence of this magnificent forest is possible. Because the 'hasmace', as we name these grouped trees, follow with precision certain water tables. Imagine the impact of Bystroe Canal and the decrease of the water level in our Delta will have on this delicate water tables. The consequences are incalculable. Letea Forest might disappear, determining a carrousel that nobody can predict. At Letea, we tried to extent the forestry background and this wasn't possible, because 2 meters aside, there isn't water table, and the forest cannot exist. There is only sand. This is the miracle there. Not accidentally, this area, Rosca-Hrecisca-Buhaiova-Letea, was classified as world patrimony because it is unique. And precisely this zone, the most beautiful, the most spectacular, but also the most delicate, will be the first to be affected by the Ukrainian Canal. It is not a sin, it is murder. Due to its very special hydrographic regime, in this area we have an immense colony of pelicans. The places where the pelicans nest cannot exist if the water level decreases permanently. There exists the danger to lose our pelicans, the biggest colony in Europe, and this is a thing that I don't even want to imagine. It would be terrible. Besides, if this happens, the Delta might lose its UNESCO statute of Reservation Biosphere from the world heritage. For Romania, this would be irreparable.

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Last forum post by codrin on May 6, 2006, 9:06 pm
This is the idea of a team who
made a vision come truth....

Who should fight to change the current situation ?
The Ukrainian Government
The Romanian Government
The United Nations
Devoted Active Citizens

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