Romanian Danube Delta
What is the problem?
The Danube Delta is recognised as one of Europe’s premier wetlands and the Danube Delta Special Protection Area (SPA) is home to over 320 bird species. These include threatened species such as Dalmatian Pelican and Red-breasted Goose.
Since Romania joined the EU in 2007 the precious Delta is coming under increasing pressure from development – infrastructure projects, such as road upgrades, tourist complexes and wind farms and unregulated hunting, fishing, tourism activities. However, unfortunately the Romanian authorities are not adequately implementing the provisions of the EU nature Directives on site protection – to ensure that the habitats of the Delta do not deteriorate, that bird species are not disturbed and that the planning of projects which may affect the Delta SPA follows proper procedures. Under the nature Directives such projects should only proceed if they will not damage the site integrity and if the proper procedures have been followed.
What is BirdLife doing?
SOR (BirdLife in Romania), supported by the RSPB (BirdLife in UK) is carrying out a project to secure the long-term conservation of this top European wetland. As part of this project, SOR is working with relevant stakeholders in the wider Danube Delta region to help plan conservation and development activities that are compatible with the high natural value of the site. At the same time they monitor potentially harmful developments, such as tourist developments and wind farms and campaign to stop them.
Looking wider than the Delta, SOR provided information to the European Commission (EC) on the inadequate designation of SPAs in Romania, which has now led to the EC passing an infringement action against the Government to the European Court of Justice. SOR also ran a training workshop for decision-makers on assessment procedures under the Habitats Directive in order to increase their understanding and improve decision-making on projects that affect Natura 2000 sites. Finally, SOR have also worked closely with the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Administration on protection of the site, including a new law to bring its protection in line with national law (see below).
In October 2009 we were pleased that the European Commission referred its infringement against Romania on lack of sufficient designation of SPAs to the European Court of Justice. We hope that this will encourage the Romanian government to designate these remaining sites as a matter of urgency. This news was tempered in November, however, by the Senate of the Romanian Parliament rejecting a vital Danube Delta law that would have brought its protection in line with European Directives. SOR and BirdLife continue to campaign for this law to be passed so that the correct legal framework is in place to protect the Delta for future generations.
Badly controlled economic development and unregulated tourism, hunting, fishing and forestry activities have already had impacts on habitats and species protected by the Birds and Habitats Directives – e.g. reducing the areas of habitats and disturbing species populations. For example, Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus, Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida, Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica, Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus and Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola have been and continue to be affected in the Chituc and Sulina areas of the Natura 2000 site.
Projects currently of concern in the Delta include:
a proposed tourist development which could cover a site of 1200 hectares along 11.5 km of coastline close to Chituc Levee
- numerous wind farm projects in and around the borders of the Delta that threaten to disrupt birds feeding and roosting and act as a significant collision threat, as well as a barrier to migration
- sand extraction and unauthorised tourist development at Sulina beach in the southern part of the Delta
To avoid further damage BirdLife is urging the European Commission to investigate the situation as a matter of urgency and to take appropriate action to ensure that Romania adequately implements the requirements of the Birds and Habitats Directives including Article 6 of the Habitats Directive on site protection.
In May 2010, the Commission sent a first written warning (Letter of Formal Notice) to the Romanian Government over damage to irreplaceable priority dune habitats in the Danube Delta Site of Conservation Interest (SCI) from tourism development at Sulina. This was backed up by a final warning ("Reasoned Opinion") in February 2011. After lobbying from SOR, the Chituc Levee tourism development is currently on hold – we will continue to monitor the situation carefully.
In January 2011 SOR submitted information to the European Commission on over 2300 turbines that are planned, consented or operational in and around the borders of the Danube Delta and other Natura 2000 sites near the black sea coast. The Commission is investigating the potentially very worrying cumulative impacts that this level of development will entail. At the Macin mountains, slightly inland, SOR information led to a first formal warning being issued by the European Commission in October 2010 over impacts from a planned wind farm on migrating raptors and priority steppe habitats.
What can you do?
- Support our casework by joining BirdLife and SOR (BirdLife in Romania)
- Visit the Danube Delta and other Natura 2000 sites in Romania [See: SOR, Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority or Important Bird Areas in Romania]
- Join BirdLife’s e-news circulation for updates on this and other cases
- Ask your Members of the European Parliament whether they will support Natura 2000 and save Romanian nature
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