The Danube Delta is well known as one of Europe's premier wetlands and the Danube Delta Special Protection Area (SPA) is home to more than 320 bird species. These include threatened species such as the dalmatian pelican and red-breasted goose.
Since Romania joined the EU in 2007, the precious Delta has been coming under increasing pressure from development – infrastructure projects, such as road upgrades, tourist complexes and badly-sited windfarms as well as unregulated hunting, fishing and tourism activities.
Unfortunately, the Romanian authorities are not adequately implementing the provisions of the EU nature Directives on site protection. This means they cannot ensure the habitats of the delta do not deteriorate, bird species are not disturbed and the planning of projects, which may affect the Delta SPA, follow proper procedures. Under the nature Directives, such projects should only proceed if they will not damage the site's integrity and if the proper procedures have been followed.
Development, roads, hunting, wind farms...
Badly controlled economic development and unregulated tourism, hunting, fishing and forestry activities have already reduced the areas of habitats and disturbed species protected by the Birds and Habitats Directives. For example, various species of waders such as collared pratincoles, stone-curlews and Kentish plovers, as well as other species of birds including, gull-billed terns, marsh harriers and Montagu’s harriers 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 proposals by the Romanian Authorities to carry out works including road widening, the construction of tourist complexes in the Chituc Levee, Sulina and Sf. Gheorghe areas. These are areas with coastal sand dunes (a priority habitat protected under the Habitats Directive) and which are important for wintering and migrating birds. On the Chituc Levee more than 250,000 birds, especially wildfowl, have been observed in a single day.
A proposed tourist development, which could cover a site of 12 square kilometres along 11.5 km of coastline close to Chituc Levee and sand extraction alongside unauthorised tourist development at Sulina beach in the southern part of the Delta add to the pressure. Additional risks include wind farm proposals located in potentially damaging locations.