WWF International press release on Danube Delta's Bystroye canal


also available at http://www.panda.org/news_facts/newsroom/other_news/news.cfm?uNewsID=12986

WWF International
Mariahilfer Str. 88a/3/0
A-1070 Vienna
Tel: +00 43 52 45 470
Fax: +0043 52 45 470

Press Release 10 May 2004

Ukraine breaches international agreements and puts Europe's second largest wetland under threat

Gland, Switzerland - WWF today criticised plans by the Ukrainian government to construct the Bystroye Canal, which will threaten critical habitats within the 400,000 hectare-Danube Delta - one of Europe's most ecologically important areas - and jeopardize the region's fishing and tourism industries.

Work on the canal is due to start on Tuesday, May 11, when the project will be formally launched by the Ukrainian Minister for Transport, Mr. Georgiy Kirpa. The multi-million US-dollar canal will cut through the Danube Delta, home to more than 280 bird species, 70% of the world's white pelican population, and 50% of the world's pygmy cormorants. WWF is concerned that the canal will dramatically alter the natural flow of the Delta, which in turn affects breeding areas that support critical local fisheries in the Black Sea.

The Danube Delta is listed as a protected area under the Ramsar Convention as one of the world's most important wetlands, and has been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. In 2000, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova signed the Lower Danube Green Corridor agreement for the restoration and sustainable use of the Delta's rich resources.

"The building of this canal flouts several international agreements and goes against the concept of international management of shared rivers," said Jamie Pittock, Director of WWF's Living Waters Programme. "WWF is calling on the Ukrainian government to hold up its end of the bargain," said Mr. Pittock.

WWF is concerned about the environmental impacts of the canal. Up to 1.5 million cubic metres of sand and mud will have to be removed from the freest flowing part of the Delta while it will cost millions of dollars to unclog the sediment from the canal every year. Along with other national and international organisations WWF has offered alternative proposals to the Ukrainian government. In spite of this the government has remained supportive of the most ecologically destructive option.

"Ukraine has failed to honour commitments made at a heads-of-state summit organised three years ago in Romania," said Michael Baltzer, Conservation Director of the WWF Danube Carpathian Programme." Nine countries in the region signed a joint declaration on restoring the Danube. If Ukraine constructs the Bystroye canal they will be reneging on those pledges."

WWF is calling for an immediate halt to plans for building the Bystroye canal in the Ukrainian Danube Delta. The global conservation organisation is calling for an independent, environmental impact assessment that examines less damaging alternatives and respects international agreements and the rights of other countries to a healthy and sustainable Danube. WWF is urging the government of Ukraine to discuss alternatives with representatives of the Ramsar Convention, UNESCO and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR).

For further information:
Bernadett Hajdu Communication Manager, WWF Danube Carpathian Programme, Tel: +43 1 524 5370, bhajdu@wwfdcp.org
Michael Baltzer, Conservation Director, WWF Danube Carpathian Programme, Tel: +43 1 524 5370, mbaltzer@wwfdcp.org

Notes to Editors:

  • Europe's Danube River Basin covering 817,000 square km is the most international river in the world and Europe's second longest river. It is the only major European river flowing from west to east and has played a vital role in the economic and cultural development of the continent. Crossing through ten countries and draining lands from seventeen countries, it supports unique habitats and species including the 83 million people who live in the basin.
  • The WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme has worked in the region since 1998 to promote the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of nature for the benefit of both people and environment. The work is primarily focused on freshwater and forest resources in the Danube River Basin and Carpathian Mountains.
  • Take action to stop the destruction of the Danube Delta, visit http://passport.panda.org/index.cfm?uNC=7137622

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