"Danube - Black Sea" project: To stop or to implement further?

Author : Viktor Dovhan

Source : 112 Ukraine

One of the priorities of Ukrainian transport potential is a project of navigation through the Chilia branch of the Danube
12:04, 15 June 2017

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One of the priorities of Ukrainian transport potential is a project of navigation through the Chilia branch of the Danube.

The "Danube - Black Sea" project is not only crucial for the development of Ukrainian Danube, but also meets the strategic interests of the European Community. It is not coincidence that deep water fairway (DWF) "Danube - Black Sea" is included in the list of inland waterways of international importance (E waterways 80-09) of the European Agreement on Main Inland Waterways.

Activities and projects of the Ukrainian part of the Danube delta are reflected in the proposals to the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. They are included in the master plan for the restoration and maintenance of Danube fairway and its navigable tributaries and national roadmaps.

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Instead, Ukraine is currently has limited opportunities to develop this project. Why?

An obstacle is the position of Romania concerning compliance of our obligations under the Convention on assessment of environmental impact in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) with these plans.

Ukraine's position on the provisions of the Espoo Convention concerning the project "Danube - Black Sea" was based on the results of an environmental impact assessment for which significant adverse transboundary impact was not anticipated.  The difference in approach has led to the initiation of the inquiry procedure under the Espoo Convention.

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With the agreement of Ukraine, in January 2005 for the first time in the practice of the Espoo Convention the Commission was established on request (Espoo Inquiry Commission) in order to develop scientifically grounded opinion on the possibility of significant adverse transboundary impacts from the project "Danube - Black Sea" and its subsequent operation.

Its decision on the presence of certain factors became the basis for the application of the draft canal procedures provided by Espoo Convention.

This creates considerable problems for Ukraine. After all, if work on DWF is stopped, including dredging operational for a long time, especially during the annual spring floods, sea channel "Danube - Black Sea" might lose navigational depth and be completely destroyed.

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13-16 June 2017, countries participating in the Espoo Convention hold negotiations in Minsk. Unfortunately, Romania is not going to any compromise with Ukraine.

What to do in this situation?

First of all, there is an objective need to maintain "Danube-Black Sea" depth to prevent rapid redistribution of water flow and therefore a violation of ecological balance. This need was mentioned in the report of experts, who in 2015 studied environmental situation in Chilia branch of Danube.

What's next?

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The results of the development adjustments give basis for completion of the project in terms of the second NSC to ensure passage of the estimated ship with a draft of 5.85 m. This is fully consistent with the recommendations of experts from the European Commission. This is the minimum that we can and should do now. And most importantly - it does not require consultation with Romania.

If this issue is resolved at the international level, we will be able to complete the project.

Failure in Minsk should not stop us. We would further search for a compromise and completing "Creating a deep water fairway "Danube - Black Sea" in Ukrainian part of the delta" within the Espoo Convention.

The next opportunity to achieve consensus is Intergovernmental Committee in Bucharest (10-11 July).

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