Danube Delta threatened by casinos and shopping malls
The legislation, if passed, would transform the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and other protected natural areas in Romania into shopping and entertainment zones without taking into account the protection of their unique values.
The Danube Delta provides habitat for 300 species of birds, most of them strictly protected under European law. As the new law does not call for strict avoidance of environmental impacts, there is a significant risk of losing rare species and protected habitats. Thriving nature is the basis for economic development in the Delta, so the legislative initiative would undermine the basis for local livelihoods.
"Communities of the Danube Delta will only profit from nature-friendly activities attracting tourists who care for nature and people of the region -- those who visit to watch pelicans and come to know the special way of life of local people. Uncontrolled economic activities can lead to the irreversible transformation of the world-famous Delta ecosystem. We risk losing the Danube Delta as we know it," said Camelia Ionescu, Freshwater Manager at WWF-Romania.
“By promoting economic activities in floodplains without any strings attached, the legislative proposal contravenes existing laws, including the Romanian Constitution, which underlines the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment" said Camelia Ionescu.
Many basic assessments are missing, including the negative impact of the law on the state budget and the breach of legal obligations under international conventions ratified by Romania, such as the Convention for the Protection of the Danube River and RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially for aquatic bird habitats.
The draft law is just one of several initiatives by the current government of Romania that could have significant environmental impacts. Other laws in the pipeline aim at permitting mining activities licensed before 2007 without impact assessments, weakening the Law on Water and poorly implementing the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessments.