On 21 February 2009, the Governor of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (DDBR) Authority via the Permanent Delegation of Romania to UNESCO provided a response to the World Heriage Centre on the key issues of Decision 32 COM 7B.21. This report was an addition to the Annual Report for 2008 for Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve sent on 18 February 2009. The report noted:
a) European Union projects
It noted that one of the objectives of the management plan of DDBR for the next period would be to harmonize and better coordinate them. It specifically refers to the Ecological Reconstruction Programme for 2009 in the Danube Delta consisting of ecological restoration in aquatic complexes, agricultural and fish-farming polders, as well as forestation works and projects for strengthening the institutional capacity.
b) Implementation of the agreed actions of the 2006 Odessa Conference
The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority is in the process of implementing the Master Plan – support for sustainable development in the Danube Delta. Several projects for cross border cooperation in the Danube Delta Transboundary Biosphere Reserve were already implemented. A common monitoring programme for the Danube Delta, including specialists from both sides of the Danube Delta has been elaborated and implementation of the joint monitoring programme started in 2008. Concerning the cooperation with the States Parties of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, the report mentions that cooperation actions with the Ukrainian Authority of the Danube Delta (Danube Biosphere Reserve) have been carried out, but no progress was yet achieved in the cooperation with Republic of Moldova, despite several initiatives of the Ministry of Environment from Romania to organize meetings of the three partners and towards the implementation of the June 2000 Agreement between the three Environment Ministries (Romania, Ukraine and Republic of Moldova).
c) Adoption and implementation of the navigation rules
The report refers to the Order of the Ministry of Environment 111 of 30 January 2007 to prevent negative impacts of the development of navigation channels. Concerning the guidelines on architecture and building activities in the Danube Delta, the report presents the Decision of the Romanian Government 1516 dated 19 November 2008, for the Framework Regulation for Urban Planning in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, the first guidelines for building activities in the Danube Delta and for the protection of the local landscape and cultural heritage. The report also refers to the Tourism Master Plan and the mechanism for transboundary cooperation on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of projects affecting the Delta, and specifically the deep navigation canal built by the Ukraine through the Northern part of the Danube Delta (Bystroe Arm). The EIA procedure has started, in accordance with the Espoo Convention and will continue during 2009.
In response to Decision 32 COM 7B.21, the State Party of Ukraine provided a detailed report on the situation with regards to the navigation waterway dated 12 February 2009 which was also shared with the State Party of Romania. The document sets out the process followed for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study for the Danube-Black Sea Navigation Route in Ukraine. It also reports that the results of the EIA process completed for the Navigation Route Project showed no indication that any significant transboundary impacts are likely to arise as a result of the proposed activity.
The EIA materials produced as part of the Detailed Design documentation package for the Phase 1 and Full-Scale Project were reviewed by the Inquiry Commission established under the Espoo Convention (on EIA in relation to transboundary developments), and the Commission concluded that the development and operation of the navigation route as proposed may give rise to transboundary impacts and the proposed project should be therefore subject to procedures defined in the Espoo Convention.
The report also provided recent data and materials collected through additional surveys undertaken since 2005 in order to facilitate an assessment of potential transboundary effects of the navigation route that have been recognized as likely significant by the Inquiry Commission.
In line with the provisions of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, the Statements of Environmental Consequences were published at each stage of the design development process; full texts of the EIA Reports produced for both phases of the Danube-Black Sea Navigation Route Project (Phase 1 and Full-Scale Project) were made available on the official website of the project (the Delta Pilot State Company). From 2003 to 2006, four public hearing events were organized and held in various towns within the Lower Danube Basin and in 2007, public consultation meetings were held in Vylkove and Tulcea for the representatives of the Ukrainian and Romanian public to discuss potential environmental impacts of the Danube -
Black Sea Navigation Route Restoration Project in the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta.
The State Party report further noted that international consultations and meetings were convened at various stages of the project. The report states that official resolutions adopted at these meetings did not indicate any non-compliance with respect to national and international environmental law.
As a conclusion to the Danube Delta International Seminar on “Culture and Tourism, a factor of Sustainable Development” (20 – 26 September 2008), UNESCO and the Romanian Authorities decided jointly to launch the project “Integrated Culture and Tourism Strategy for Sustainable Development in the Danube Delta. The overall project goal is to elaborate and implement a development strategy based on an integrated approach using heritage safeguarding and conservation and to promote sustainable tourism in support of the objectives of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Master Plan as well as the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations.
On 20 March 2009, the World Heritage Centre received a copy of correspondence to the State Party of Ukraine from the Executive Secretary of the United National Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which is the implementating committee of the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment. This letter raised a series of concerns of the Espoo Convention implementing committee to the State Party of Ukraine regarding the development of the Danube-Black Sea Deep-water Navigation Canal. The implementing committee further noted that the State Party of Ukraine was requested to submit a statement by 15 April 2009 confirming the previous decision of the Meeting of Parties to “a) demonstrate that all works, including operation and maintenance, on Phase I have stopped; and (b) show, separately for Phase I and for Phase II, that the Convention is being applied fully to the Project.” Regarding the environmental impact assessment, the implementing committee also noted that the summary and findings did not fulfil the technical requirements of the Espoo Convention and requested further explanation from the State Party of Ukraine to the Working Group on Environmental Impact Assessment, planned to meet from 11 to 13 May 2009.
IUCN notes the recommendations of the Ramsar mission which took place in July 2008. The implementation of the Ramsar mission recommendations would greatly contribute to the reduction of threats to the property, and improved management. These recommendations include:
Recommendation 1: ‘To implement a Joint Declaration to work towards a River Basin management plan for the Danube Delta supporting Sustainable Development in the Region;’
Recommendation 4: ‘Ukraine to report on provisions made for any damage to the ecological character of the Ramsar sites in Ukraine, Romania and Moldova and other wetlands caused by the works which have already been carried out or will be carried out;’ and
Recommendation 5: ‘Ukraine to briefly report to the Ramsar Secretariat on its cooperation with relevant international organizations and the governments of Romania and Moldova on a programme of international monitoring of the ecological character of the Ramsar sites in the Danube Delta region, in line with the Ramsar Convention’s guidance on wetland monitoring (Ramsar Wise Use Handbook 1).’
IUCN notes that the state of conservation of the property should be indicated through monitoring of wildlife population trends. While the State Party has reported on presence of certain species no population data were provided for either birds or fish and therefore it is not possible to comment on the status of the biodiversity values and integrity of the property. The implementation of an ecological monitoring programme, Recommendation 5 of the 2008 Ramsar Secretariat mission, would greatly contribute to monitoring the state of conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property.