Climate proofing the Danube Delta through integrated land and water management

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The Danube Delta.
© WWF-DCP

Project period
2011-2013
Project partners
  • Danube Biosphere Reserve
  • Danube Delta National Park
  • WWF
  • Center for Regional Studies (Odessa)
  • Ecospectr (Kishinev)
More than 6,000 flora and fauna species and 30 types of ecosystems shape the biodiversity of one of Europe’s unique regions and one of the 200 most valuable ecoregions of the World – the Danube Delta. However climate change is expected to have considerable impact on this vulnerable region: more frequent floods, longer periods of drought, decreased fish stocks and reduced biodiversity.
Furthermore, climate change contributes to water quality deterioration and disturbs the balance of all systems in the Delta which would significantly influence the welfare of the local population. After all, 100,000 people inhabiting the Danube Delta, directly depend on the water and nature resources of the region. For instance, for many centuries now people from the town of Vilkovo have been engaged in fishing in the Delta. Nowadays this traditional fishing activity is threatened since the population of commercial fish stocks, such as herring, catfish and carp, decline rapidly. The harsh and unpredictable weather conditions which impact the water regime and natural resources of the region play a big role in this process.

Traditionally, different fruits are grown on the fertile soils of the Danube Delta - strawberries, apples, apricots and many others – and are delivered to the people from South Ukraine. Climate change will force farmers to revise their agricultural practice in order to continue having high yields. This will affect the water regime and the planting periods, as well as the use of crop varieties, with priority given to varieties that are more resistant to the environmental conditions. But people from the region are not prepared for such changes. Extensive information and training efforts are necessary, so that the Danube Delta region is able to adapt to the new environmental conditions.

In addition, Ukraine, Moldova and Romania face significant difficulties in applying environmental legislation in key areas (biodiversity conservation, land and water management, climate change, energy) due to the lack of qualified management staff and the limited awareness of key stakeholders.

The Project

 / ©: Roman Sizo
Scientific expedition to the Ukrainian Danube delta in August 2011 (Ukraine).
© Roman Sizo
A new regional project was launched in March 2011, which aims to prepare the Danube Delta for possible impacts of climate change. The three-year project “Climate proofing the Danube Delta through integrated land and water management” involves three countries - Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. The project is implemented with the support of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). The premise of the project is that the common approach for solving a common problem will be more effective than the individual targeted efforts of each country. After all, nature does not recognize borders and the Danube Delta represents an integrated ecosystem, albeit divided by law between the three countries.

The Project Goal

The project goal is to lay the foundations for timely and thorough adaptation of Ukrainian, Moldovan and Romanian territories of the Danube Delta region to the conditions of the changing climate. The adaptation to the new environmental conditions must be integral and systematic and must happen at all levels, including administration, local business, municipalities and ecosystems.

The Solution

 / ©: WWF-DCPO
Local and regional officials work with WWF to restore wetlands and promote local development in the Danube Delta in Ukraine.
© WWF-DCPO
A comprehensive study of the possible impact of climate change on the Danube Delta will be carried out. Based on the findings, a trans-boundary Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the Danube Delta will be developed to achieve the goal of the project. The two documents will help the governments and environmental organizations in the three countries to comprehend the general picture of the expected changes and the necessary activities to adapt the region to them. Thus, the foundations of a complex solution will be established, which will be more effective than separate actions for climate adaptation.

One of the effective adaptation measures may be the restoration of the wetlands in the Danube Delta which have been significantly destroyed in the past 50 years. Wetlands represent a natural buffer system, which can adapt to changes and mitigate the impact of severe weather conditions. They help water purification, increase soil fertility, act as “kindergartens” for juveniles of valuable fish stocks and help the regulation of the water levels of the Danube. The project includes a model restoration of wetlands within the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta.

The training of qualified staff is an important part of the project. Thematic trainings will be carried out which will help the local administration, municipal governors, businesses, farmers and fishermen to understand the possible meaning of climate change for the region and how the new environmental conditions may become beneficial.

An extensive awareness raising campaign about climate change adaptation, which will be carried out in 20 settlements of the region, will demonstrate to local people ways to solve climate related issues for the benefit of the region.

The project will also help local municipalities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the use of biomass instead of fossil fuels as a source of heating. A pilot project for the generation of “green” energy from reeds and shrubs biomass will be implemented in the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta. Harvesting of the biomass will contribute to the restoration of wetlands and become a new source of income for the local business and people. After the implementation of the pilot project, stakeholders will be involved in trainings and meetings in order to exchange experience on the implementation of such projects.

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