UNECE Inquiry Commission concludes that Danube Canal will have “significant
adverse transboundary effects” on the environment
Geneva, 10 July 2006 -- On 10 July, in Geneva, Professor Joost
Terwindt, President of the United Nations Inquiry Commission, formally handed
over its opinion on the environmental impact of the Bystroe Canal to the Ambassadors
of Romania and Ukraine and to the Executive Secretary of the United Nations
Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Mr. Marek Belka.
The first phase of the Ukrainian project “Danube-Black Sea Deep Water
Navigation Canal in the Ukrainian Sector of the Danube Delta” (the Bystroe
Canal project), aimed at boosting the depressed local economy, was completed
in August 2004, and a second phase is now underway. Much of the national and
international controversy surrounding this project arises from its location
in the Danube Delta.
The Commission unanimously concluded that the building of the canal is likely
to have the following significant adverse transboundary impacts:
- Dredging will have an impact on the water level dynamics along the
Bystroe branch that will result in loss of floodplain habitats, which
are used by fish for spawning and nurseries, and by birds for nesting
- Coverage of bird and fish habitats by dump sites, dredging and bank
protection measures will result in habitat loss.
- The increase in suspended sediment concentrations downstream of the
dredging site will harm fish.
- Marine waters will become turbid when spoil is dumped at sea under
conditions involving southbound alongshore currents.
- Repeated maintenance dredging will hamper the recovery processes of
affected areas for fish in the long term.
- There will be large-scale,
long-term cumulative impacts on fish and bird life from shipping traffic
and habitat loss and/or disturbance.
The Commission also found that there are likely adverse transboundary impacts
from the following factors (but that there is not enough information to
judge the significance of these impacts):
- The impact of dredging on the turbidity of river and marine waters;
- The impact on the coastal morphology of the Romanian coastal section
between the Chilia and Sulina branches from the construction of the
retaining dam and the maintenance dredging of the Bystroe sandbar section;
- The impact of navigation on fish and bird life:
- The impact of increases in suspended sediment concentration at and
near the dredging site.
Ukraine is developing the canal without having previously notified Romania
(as it is required to do under the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact
Assessment in a Transboundary Context, also known as the Espoo Convention).
The Convention requires that countries notify and consult each other on
all planned major projects that are likely to have a significant negative
environmental impact across a national border. Both Romania and Ukraine
are Parties to the Convention.
Based on its findings, the Commission has concluded that a significant
adverse transboundary impact is likely and thus the provisions of the Espoo
Convention apply. This means that Ukraine is expected to send a notification
about the canal to Romania and that the procedure imposed by the Convention
should start. In other words, there should be consultation between the
Parties, Romania should be given an opportunity to comment on the project,
and public participation in the two countries should be ensured. It also
means that the final decision about the project should be submitted to
In its contacts with scientists and NGOs, the Commission found a general
wish for more information-sharing and cooperation between the two countries
regarding the construction of the canal and other projects with possible
transboundary impact. The Commission welcomed this common wish as a valuable
step for cooperation between the two countries. It recommends starting
a bilateral research programme related to activities with transboundary
impacts in the framework of bilateral cooperation under the Espoo Convention.
It has requested the Espoo secretariat to arrange for international funding
and other support for bilateral cooperation, including the proposed research
For more information, please visit http://www.unece.org/env/eia/inquiry.htm or
Environment, Housing and Land Management Division
United Nations Economic
Commission for Europe (UNECE)
Palais des Nations, Office 407
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Phone: +41 (0) 22 917 2448
Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 0107 or 917 0613