Local community and WWF restore Mahmudia wetland

Posted on 07 January 2016

This is the first cooperation of this sort in Romania
The Mahmudia wetland restoration project was the first ecological reconstruction of the Danube Delta implemented by a local community, in partnership with WWF. The work lasted four years.

The wetland is located in the Mahmudia community along the Danube. The area was drained in the 80s to clear the way for agricultural activities, but a part of the Delta was lost as a result.

The aim of the restoration was to solve the two major problems of the Delta: the use of 35% of the area for agriculture and pisciculture and the absence of measures to protect the species and habitats on 52.8% of the territory of the reserve. 

The project reconnected a 900-hectare area of agriculture lands previously separated from the water bodies to the area’s inner lakes and wetlands by restoring the natural hydrological system. Heavy earthmoving equipment was used to create waterways for fishermen and tourism opportunities for the town. This created good conditions for the life of all species of plants, birds and fish characteristic for the Delta that today are threatened with extinction.

The work restored  and seeks to preserve 18 habitat types, taking into account the socio-economic needs of local residents. White willows (Salix alba), Silver poplars (Populus alba) and European ashes (Fraxinus excelsior) were planted on 10 hectares of land.  

The restoration of the Mahmudia wetland was co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and conducted under the Sectoral Operational Programme Environment 2007-2013. The local Council of Mahmudia implemented the project in partnership with WWF-Romania and the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Administration.     

"We believe the restoration will increase the welfare of the local community and diversify its opportunities for traditional economic activities, especially tourism. It also demonstrates the community benefits of wetlands and, at the same time, gives an example to be followed by other communities," said Cornelia Benea, department manager at the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Administration.

"The ecological reconstruction of the Mahmudia wetland is a dream fulfilled. Over the last four years, the project team made ​​up of experts from major governmental and nongovernmental institutions in the Delta has managed to carry out a plan in which very few people believed until the end. We want our work to continue because this is just a stepping stone to returning nature to its initial condition from the 80s. This requires the good management of the area in accordance with the laws of nature", said Gheorghe Demidov, the project’s manager.

"This environmental reconstruction project must be a starting point in developing a model for local communities to develop businesses that are friendly to nature ", said Camelia Ionescu freshwater manager at WWF Romania. 
Excavators at work opening up the Mahmudia polders in the Danube Delta, Romania
© Tony Long