The Delta is crying
The Bystroe Canal is being dredged, the birds are dying, the fish are migrating, the vegetation is perishing.
The international community seems to be helpless in front of the Ukrainian cranes
It isn't known when exactly this story began.In 1978 there came up the idea of constructing a waterway between the Danube and the Black Sea through the Danube Biosphere Reservation from Ukraine. No one knows why the idea was abandoned for a while, and resumed in 1987 for this year to culminate with the hasted dredging and dyking of the canal, a clear sign of the reward given to the governmental party of the affaires which financially sustains it for the elections this month.And the works continue, in spite all the warnings of the environmental international organisms and the fiasco that Ukraine registered in 1997 with a similar canal : the Prova Canal, which, after expensive works of dredging filled up with alluvia in three months and became impracticable for transport.
A heaven with cranes
What is happening at a stone's throw from us was related by Mrs. Petruta Moisi, the president of the Ecologic Consultancy Center from Galati and the spokesman of the Environmental Forum of the Danube, went to Ukraine few days ago and saw the Bystroe Canal covered with cranes, full of ships which load sand.. All of them from the bank of the canal, from Vilkovo, the community with 8 000 inhabitants, people who are struggling between ignorance and incapability, people manipulated by the Ukrainian authorities who tell them exactly what they want to hear.
'On Bystroe I saw the reverse of what I had saw five years ago, in October 1999, when I participated in a symposium. Then I saw a heavenly Delta; now, the entire mouth of Bystroe Arm is blocked by powerful installations, by huge cranes and which stock up the sand and the sediments which are taken out of the river bed. All the surface is covered with enormous hoses which transport what is taken out of the depth. A dyke of massive rocks is being constructed, thing that the European commission didn't know and it was kept a secret. The dyke constructed on the northern side of the arm has in some areas a height of 2-3 meters.
The works are in full swing on the entire length of the arm (8 km). Its natural depth of 2 meters is enhanced at 8 meters; a part of the alluvia and of the sand is loaded and taken to some islets, which are a part of the areas taken out from the protection of the River Danube by the Ukrainian Government on 2nd February 2004.The canal prolongs 3,5 meters in the sea, whereupon the bottom of the sea abruptly descends at 20 meters. Letea forest, the colony of pelicans from Rosca-Buhaiova, the sea shore endangered by erosion cry in the rumble of the installations which can be heard as far as of 7 km around.
First of all, the navigation.
The waterway which is being arranged un Bystroe Arm, from the secondary delta of Chilia Arm, located in the territory of The Danube Biosphere Reservation from Ukraine crosses an area with integral ecologic protection regime, found under the jurisdiction of UNESCO and included in the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance, especially as a habitat for waterfowl. The canal will serve in navigation exclusively for economic purpose, being aimed at drawing under foreign bower of the maritime ships and its utilization by the Ukrainian ships which wouldn't have to pay the tax for traveling on Sulina Canal. So, the economic interests are so big that the Ukrainian authorities don't take into account the impact of the works on the environment.
What does human intervention in this paradise mean? The Romanian and the Ukrainian specialists have made assessments in this direction. But an impact assessment hasn't been made until now. And that is precisely what environmental international organizations are asking: the works on the canal to be stopped until a neutral organism in this issue says exactly what this long term works presume. The National Institute of Research-Development of the Danube Delta from Romania has made some assessment which had as a conclusion the fact that the necessary works for building this canal will seriously disturb the hydrologic and ecologic equilibrium of the area, affecting the entire region of the Danube Delta, including the Biosphere Reservation from Romania. The water flow on Bystroe Canal will be activated in the disadvantage of other channels with repercussions in the lymitrophic natural ecosystems. The small channels from the other side of Bystroe will disappear, and the lack of water circulation will lead to the transformation of the actual wetlands into meadows.Also, the navigation on the canal will increase the risk of pollution with oil products.
The "whittling" of the herring
The construction and navigation works on the canal will affect the majority of fish species which live in this area, including the 7 species listed in the European Red List (as endangered species) and 16 in the Ukrainian Red List. It is estimated that annually the fresh water fish captures will come down with 19 tones, and the captures of marine fish will come down with 80 tones. Therefore, the population who makes a living from fishing will suffer, despite the fact that people are going to be told that all is going to be fine, that new jobs will be created. So far, only the German firm Moebius which works here has something to win out of this. And about the fish we can also say that the reproduction migration of the Danube herring will be done also through Bystroe Canal and, the exploitation of the canal will affect the natural development of this specie, reducing at the same time the industrial capture with 90 tones.
The deepening of the river bed, the permanent dredging works for its maintenance and the waves generated by the ships will hinder the development of fish sapling, if the areas of reproduction of many species are destroyed by the works of building dykes on the banks.
Don't shoot the birds!
The Danube Biosphere Reservation means :
-257 species of birds, from which 9 are mentioned in the European Red List and 42 in the Red Book of Ukraine;
-nesting area for 1000 pairs of small cormorants and 3 pairs of white-tailed eagle;
-in the developing season there can be found up to 2,500 pelicans and 80 dalmatian pelicans, 900 red-necked geese, 35 white-tailed eagles;
-on the sandy banks, the main impact zone of the ship tract, can be found 223 species of birds, among which 5 are listed in the European red List and 31 in the Red List of Ukraine.
The majority of bird species from the reservation's territory is of great European faunistic importance , being mentioned in the lists of various international conventions. But the Delta is a migration path for many species which nest in the North and in the center of Europe, and also for some which have their dispersion areas in Asia.
The increase of water flow on Bystroe will cause the transformation of the habitats not only in the adjacent areas, but also on a larger perimeter, including the Biosphere Reservation of the Danube Delta. The first to be affected will be the areas from the N-E of the delta : the areas of integral protection Letea (2.825 ha), Rosca-Buhaiova (9.625 ha), the natural islet Babina (2.100 ha)and Cernovca (1.580 ha), as the Popina area (3.600) from the piscicultural area with the same name.
The plants count 950 species ( 3 mentioned in the European Red List and 16 in the Red Book of Ukraine). The plant communities from the reservation are different from the ones from other deltas (Dniester, Nipru, Don, Kuban), from the N-W of the Black Sea and Azov Sea coast. The waves generated by the ships will cause changes, then the disappearance of the plant communities, including the rare ones. The pollution which will affect an area of 5 km, will influence negatively the flora and the fauna, the habitat of various species of insects, amphibians, reptiles, many, extremely vulnerable.
The effects which can be seen
Many things were said about the inability of the international organisms in Bystroe issue. The economic interests are so big that all the actions pointed against the Ukrainian project were meant to be fiascos. Various international conventions were trespassed, and Ukraine was never sanctioned. The European Union is not getting involved (Ukraine isn't a candidate country), NATO doesn't even want to hear about this, and the project is put across slowly and securely. The ones who had the courage to talk about Bystroe issue are permanently persecuted and live under the pressure of the influences exerted upon them. We are talking about Alexandr Voloskevici, the governor of the Ukrainian reservation. The voices of the director of the Institute of Research-Development of the Danube Delta - Romulus Stiuca and of the governor of the Biosphere Reservation Management-Virgil Munteanu were heard, but not enough to draw international attention.
When the exploitation of the canal starts, the circulation of maritime ships on the Sulina-Tulcea route will be drastically diminished. The regional importance of the harbors Izmail and Reni will grow, especially of the oil tanker Reni; the portuary operations from Sulina, Tulcea, Galati and Braila will be diminished.
But the effects of human intervention in this piece of heaven are incalculable and are already starting to be visible. In July, there were found in the sand banks of Ptichya from Bystroe estuary hundreds of unincubated eggs of sea swallow, and the adult bird colony has left the bank. It seams that the noise has chased them away.
And that is not all.
The Biosphere Reservation from Ukraine (46.000 ha) is a part of the Bilateral Reservation of the Danube Delta, located in Romania and in Ukraine and confirmed by UNESCO in 1999. Nongovernmental environmental organizations estimate that, if the works at the canal continue, this month the reservation might lose its UNESCO status of Biosphere Reservation; this would be the final stroke - the Ukrainian Government and the affairs sector will be able to use the territory as they please. Bystroe will have the same destiny as Sulina (on a distance of 10 km on a side and the other of the canal no bird colony has installed since the construction started) stimulating unbelievable effects on a bigger perimeter. More serious is that what is now happening on Bystroe is just a part of a more ample project which envisages the Chilia Arm.
'Viata Libera' newspaper, 9 november 2004