Bystroe Canal Project under international scrutiny
UN Economic Commission for Europe
Controversial Danube Canal – Non-compliance with Espoo Convention?
Decision expected on 21 May
Geneva, 9 May 2008 -- Environmental threats do not respect national borders. Governments have realized that they must inform and discuss with each other all major projects under consideration that might have an adverse transboundary environmental impact. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (sometimes called the Espoo Convention after the Finnish city where it was adopted in 1991) requires that member States notify and consult each other on all such projects.
The first phase of the so-called Bystroe Canal Project (the Danube-Black Sea Deep-water Navigation Canal in the Ukrainian sector of the Danube Delta), aimed at boosting the local economy, was completed in August 2004. The final decision on the second phase has recently been taken. Much of the national and international controversy surrounding this project arises from its location in the second largest delta in Europe (after the Volga). The Danube Delta, which includes UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and a World Natural Heritage site, is a wetland rich in plants (over 1,000 species), birds (300 species, including the largest pelican colony in Europe) and fish (including several endangered species of sturgeon). It spans the border between Romania and Ukraine.
In July 2006, a scientific group of experts set up under the Espoo Convention concluded that the Bystroe Canal Project would have “significant adverse transboundary effects” on the environment and that the provisions of the Convention should be applied.
The fourth meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention, which will take place in Bucharest from 19 to 21 May 2008, is expected to decide whether to endorse findings that Ukraine has been in non-compliance with its obligations under this international environmental agreement. The findings were prepared by the Convention’s Implementation Committee in January 2008 in response to a submission by Romania expressing concerns about Ukraine’s compliance with its obligations under the Convention with respect to the Bystroe Canal Project. The Committee is responsible for the review of compliance by the Parties with their obligations under the Convention, with a view to assisting them to fully meet their commitments.
Mr. Wiek Schrage
Environment, Housing and Land Management Division
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Palais des Nations, Office 407
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland