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Pelicans in Dunaisky Biosphere Zapovednik

(Photo O. Zakharov)

News Alert

April 2005
Help stop canal construction in the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta, where pristine wetlands are preserved in Dunaisky Biosphere Zapovednik!

The Ukrainian Government is proceeding with plans to deepen a navigation canal in the Bystroye Channel, located in the delta of the Danube River , which drains into the Black Sea . The canal would pass right through the heart of Dunaisky Biosphere Zapovednik, created in 1977 to protect large colonies of waterfowl in the delta. The area is considered one of the 200 most valuable wetlands on Earth. Despite numerous protests from ecologists and international organizations such as UNESCO, WWF International, and the Council of Europe, the Ukrainian Government allowed construction of an experimental section of the canal, which was completed in August 2004.

Dunaisky Biosphere Zapovednik has earned the status of a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention for its critical role in supporting habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds. Large flocks of rare Dalmatian pelicans nest and winter here – as many as 5,000 birds during the summer. During the cold months, as many as 115,000 white-fronted gather here – or 10 percent of the species’ entire population in the Black Sea Region. In some years, up to 7,000 red-breasted geese winter here, accounting for seven percent of that species global population. Forty-three bird species in the reserve are listed in the Ukrainian Red Book and the European Red List. The channels, lakes, and waterways are also home to 91 species of fish, including all species listed in the European Red List, such as ship, Atlantic sturgeon, Dunai and Black Sea salmon, and others. Among the 40 species of mammals in the zapovednik is the only seal in the Black Sea – the endangered monk seal.

But all that and more has been under threat since the Ukrainian Ministry of Transportation began lobbying for the creation of a navigational canal through the strictly protected Dunaisky Zapovednik in December 2001. Ukrainian and international experts predicted that construction of the canal would lead to:

  • changes in the hydrological regime of the delta with unknown consequences;
  • pollution of waterways from oil spills and waste;
  • habitat destruction for the majority of fish species in the area;
  • habitat loss for large colonies of nesting birds; and
  • disappearance of the majority of rare insects, amphibians, and mammals living in the region of planned construction.

In essence, the construction project threatens the existence of the Dunaisky Biosphere Zapovednik altogether. Indeed, some of these destructive processes have already been noted: increased turbity of the water and movement of sediments were noted south of the area after construction begun; and in July 2004, birds in two colonies near the construction site abandoned the sites and 1,500 nests, resulting in the death of countless unhatched chicks.

Even more disturbing is the Ukrainian Government’s complete unwillingness to consider the feasibility of using the existing Connecting Canal near the port of Ust-Dunaisk, which had been functioning normally until recently. Environmental activists believe that the only motivation behind construction of the new canal was the desire of certain people in the Ministry of Transportation to make a profit at nature’s expense.

With the recent election of President Yushenko, activists hope that it is not too late to save the unique nature of Dunaisky Zapovednik and put a halt to construction work on the canal. But they need as much support as they can muster from the international community. You can lend a hand by sending protest letters to the following addresses:

President of Ukraine V.A. Yushenko, Bankovskaya ulitsa, 1 Kiev , Ukraine 01220

Prime Minister of Ukraine Y.V. Timoshenko, Grushevskogo ulitsa, 12/2, Kiev , Ukraine 01008

Or you can appeal to the President of Ukraine on the web at the following sites:

(in Ukrainian) www.president.gov.ua/feedback/

(in English) www.president.gov.ua/eng/feedback/

(in Russian) www.president.gov.ua/rus/feedback/


Information distributed by Vladimir Sesin of the Kiev Ecological-Cultural Center .

Translated and edited by Laura Williams.

For more information, visit www.seu.ru/projects/eng/dunay/


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