"LANDSCAPE OF THE YEAR" – AN ONGOING PROJECT OF "FRIENDS OF NATURE INTERNATIONAL"Every two years since 1989, Friends of Nature International (FNI) has designated a European cross-border region of ecological value as Landscape of the Year. The project takes up the current challenges of the region, and together with the local inhabitants, administration and all other regional interest groups, elaborates measures to be applied for durable regional development. Reliance is upon a process with long-term effects, which is carried on by regional representatives and achieves cross-border economic, social and ecological links. To these can also be added conservation of nature and traditions, the achievement of local sources of income, and promotion of sustainable tourism. THE DANUBE DELTA "LANDSCAPE OF THE YEAR 2007/2009" In terms of its scientific importance, the Danube Delta occupies third place in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador). The Danube Delta was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1990, and in 1991 it became a wetlands area of recognised international importance (in accordance with the RAMSAR Treaty). It has also been included in the UNESCO "Man and Biosphere" programme and inscribed in the list of Universal Natural Heritage. Also in recognition of the universal value of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve and of the efficiency of the management plan applied in the region, the European Council awarded it the European Diploma for Protected Areas in 2000 (renewed in 2005). The greater part of the Delta is Romanian territory, while the northern part is in Ukrainian territory and a smaller area lies in Moldova. Although the population density is low, the Delta is home to numerous cultures and ethnic groups, who make their living from agriculture, fishing, and exploitation of reeds, as well as from a newer source of income – tourism. Today, a lack of economic alternatives forces young people to leave the region or to emigrate. At the same time, inadequate use of natural resources and environmental problems, such as the dumping of household refuse in unsupervised areas and the lack of wastewater purification, tourism and unauthorised building all place the sensitive ecosystems of the Delta at risk. AIMS AND MEASURES The main aim of the "Landscape of the Year" project is to support both sustainable development in the region and cross-border co-operation. Designation as "Landscape of the Year" aims to bring the Danube Delta to European awareness, as one of the most spectacular but also most fragile natural areas in Europe. To this end, the year 2007 provided the best starting point, thanks to Romania's accession to the European Union and the designation of Sibiu as European Capital of Culture. This advantage should also be used in the Delta, in order to establish a dialogue between Romania and Ukraine with a view to elaborating and promoting shared strategies for sustainable development. The idea behind each "Landscape of the Year" is to initiate an efficient and sustainable process, which should contribute to cross-border conservation of natural and cultural landscape and obtain local sources of income. The following have been singled out as Subjects for Action: Promotion of sustainable regional development through:- Round-table talks on local problems and priorities- Development and sale of new products by linking up various economic branches, such as agriculture, fishing, traditional arts and crafts, and tourism- Measures for adequate professional training, especially for young people- Extension of traditional and innovative uses for reeds- Exchange of know-how and experience in the "Landscape of the Year" network Putting into practice strategies for sustainable development in tourism, with the aim of achieving a regional eco-tourism pilot scheme in Romania:- Periods of professional training for regional providers and other interested parties- Achievement of regional tourism management in correspondence to standards of sustainability and professional promotion- Modernisation of information centres in the Danube Delta Not everything that is named "ecological tourism" is genuinely compatible with the environment or social milieu and consequently sustainable. For this reason, in protected areas of international importance, such as the Danube Delta, it is essential that, on the one hand, tourism strategies should be in agreement with objectives for the protection of nature and, on the other, the local population should be offered opportunities for employment and income. The achievement of sustainable tourism requires a long-term engagement. All participants, regardless of whether they are locals, tourism agencies, politicians or ecological organisations, need to be aware that financial income and other benefits only begin to appear after a number of years. At the same time, real goals for the short- and medium-term are necessary to motivate all participants through visible progress and a continuing commitment to preserving natural and cultural diversity. In this context, the Administration of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (ADDBR) supports and guides tourism through relevant information in different languages at its internet website (www.ddbra.ro), at its visitors' centre, and also leaflets and brochures. The internet page is aimed at both individual tourists, who wish to plan their own trip to the Danube Delta, and at visitors on organised tours. You can find here not only the addresses of recommended tourism agencies but also numerous boarding houses of various standards, floating hotels, and campsites. Three visitors' centres in Tulcea (including the central headquarters of the DDBR), Crişan and Sulina present visitors the ecosystems and cultural heritage of the Danube Delta. The three visitors' centres should be supplemented within the next few years with another six branches in the Delta. At the same time, TulceaCounty plans to open an eco-tourism centre. ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGNS AND WORKSHOPS: - Reduction/elimination/collection/recycling of waste- The situation of motorboats in the Delta- For the Danube riparian countries: Protection of biodiversity and water management (in the case of floods) Through the "Campaign for a Clean Delta", the project wishes to support the Administration of the Biosphere in its efforts towards functional waste management. As far as this is concerned, it is above all a matter of information and practical transposition into day-to-day life: how can waste be reduced and how can it be efficiently separated, where can it best be collected, and how can it be transported? What will be the benefits for the people of the Delta? Workshops and information leaflets are planned for adults in the communities of the Delta, and actions in schools. A third important target group are providers of tourist services in the Delta. All these activities will unfold in close co-operation with representatives of the Administration of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. The goal is to put into practice the recommendations and provisions of the national and local plans and laws as regards sanitation, as well as the DDBR master plan. This is fact presupposes not only information but also a functional and profitable sanitation infrastructure. PUBLIC RELATIONS - A constant presence in the press- Brochures, leaflets, web pages, and newsletters- Festivities and actions- A presence at international tourism fairs DURATION OF THE PROJECT The duration of the project per se will be two years, including the pre- and post-project stages, but can be extended up to three or four years, during which time the Friends of Nature will actively sustain local initiatives. OFFICIAL LAUNCH The official launch was represented by the proclamation ceremony on 2/3 June 2007 in Tulcea, with various activities and displays. The programme of displays, organised within the framework of the Fish and Culture Festival comprised: The presentation of the multi-ethnic specificity of the Danube Delta region (co-ordinated by the CountyCentre for the Conservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture) A parade and performances of traditional music, given by folkloric ensembles from the Delta region; a presentation of folk costume A culinary exhibition, with traditional specialities of the minorities of the Danube Delta region Exhibitions of local folk arts and crafts The presentation of cultural and environmental projects The vernissage of the "A Chance for the Blue Danube" exhibition (co-ordinated by the ADDBR and the GeorgeGeorgescuArtCollege in Tulcea) The vernissage of the "Days of European Landscape" art exhibition (co-ordinated by the Tulcea Union of Fine Artists) The presentation of school projects The "Day in the Life of a City" educational project (co-ordinated by the NicolaeCornăţeanuAgriculturalCollege in Tulcea) Objects made from recyclable materials (co-ordinated by the Waste Management Information and Education Centre in Tulcea) A thematic performance given by nursery school, secondary school and college pupils of Tulcea municipality Activities to attract and involve the general public The fashioning of a symbolic fish from wicker, built together with members of the public present Children's workshops for drawing fishThe official launch of the "Danube Delta – Landscape of the Year 2007-2009" took place on Sunday, 3 June 2007, with speeches given by representatives of local and central authorities: Mrs Lucia Ana Varga, Secretary of State in the Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable Development and President of the International Commission for Protection of the Danube; Mr Paul Cononov, Governor of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve; Mr Gheorghe Bunduc, President of Tulcea County Council; Mr Constantin Hogea, Mayor of the City of Tulcea; Mr Herbert Brückner, President of Friends of Nature International-Austria; and the delegation of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve in Ukraine. After the delegation of representatives from the Jura Mountains (Landscape of the Year 2005-2006) handed over the baton to the representative of the Danube Delta Cross-border Biosphere Reserve (Romania and Ukraine), a commemorative stone was unveiled. PROJECT PARTNERS The main co-ordinator is Friends of Nature International, and the regional partner is Friends of Nature-Romania. Other project partners include the Administration of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, local public authorities (Tulcea County Council, Tulcea City Hall), the Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development, the Tulcea Institute for Ecomuseum Research, the Eco-tourism Association of Romania, the Danube-Carpathian Programme of the World Wide Fund for Nature, and the Administration of the Ukrainian Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. COLLABORATING PARTNERS The International Commission for Protection of the Danube, GTZ Romania, and the Romanian Ornithological Society. REEDS – A WHOLLY SPECIAL MATERIAL Immense expanses of reeds dominate the Delta landscape. From an ecological as well as economic point of view, reeds are of especial importance: they purify the water, provide a refuge for wildlife, and provide a regenerative material. "PURIFICATION STATION" AND LIVING HABITAT The nutritive substances (nitrates, phosphates) and heavy metals borne by the Danube and its tributaries are finally deposited in the Danube Delta. This is why the reeds there play an important ecological role: they are a natural filter that acts against eutrophication, against excessive richness of nutrients in the Delta, reduces the concentration of heavy metals, stops sediments and prevents erosion of the banks. The reed cordons and islands have an especial importance as a nesting space and habitat for numerous endangered bird species, such as the bittern, dwarf heron, marsh harrier, dwarf cormorant, white egret, pelican, and crested pelican, as well as for mammals such as the mink, otter, ermine, wildcat, enot dog and bison, who find food and shelter there. Likewise, many species of fish, such as the perch and chub throng the areas of reeds. A PLANT THAT IS USEFUL AND GOOD FOR EXPORT For the people of the Delta, reeds have always been a cheap raw material with multiple uses. As a material for export it is still important. Traditionally, it has been harvested as a building material for roofs, and for mats, fences and fuel. Reed roofs are now rare in the Delta. They are regarded as complicated and expensive to make. Today, there are few people who still know the skill of roof thatching. Only relatively slender "quality reeds" from shore areas are exported. Given its high silicate content, they are more durable and are used in Western Europe for thatching. Most of the surface areas of the Delta are covered in long, thick reeds, which are not suitable for export and are thus not regularly harvested. However, harvesting is indicated for ecological reasons every few years, adapted to the plant's life cycle, in order to maintain a balance of nutritive substances and prevent gradual silting. In order for there to be durable development, it would be necessary for these "inferior" reeds to be utilised profitably and thereby also provide environmental benefits. Ideas and methods for this already exist in the Delta. OPTIONS: BIOMASS AND ECOLOGICAL BUILDING MATERIALS Reeds are a very dynamic plant, which produce a large quantity of biomass without fertiliser. It is an ideal replaceable fuel, for example in the form of compacted reed bricks, which heat much more efficiently than simple dried reeds and which can be used in various heating systems. An enterprise in the Delta is already producing such bricks. Thanks to their physical, thermal and soundproofing qualities, as well as being durable and light, reeds are highly suitable for the manufacture of building and isolating materials. In combination above all with clay, reeds are well known in traditional Delta techniques. Nowadays, reeds are also becoming known as an ecological building material, used in pre-fabricated isolating plates, and construction and transport elements.
by Administration of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve