The Danube Delta: The European Vision On Environmental Protection

Former Governor of Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority

The Danube Delta is the greatest protected natural area on the European continent, the best preserved wetland region of Europe and the only delta in the world declared entirely a biosphere reserve. One may say that because the impressive diversity of the habitats and life forms it hosts in a relatively small space, the Danube Delta represents a true museum of biodiversity, a natural gene pool which is priceless for the global natural patrimony. Almost a third of the total number of plant species which grow in Romania can be found in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. Furthermore, most species of medicinal plants, the largest areas covered in reed and two forests unique in Europe, made up of secular oaks and Mediterranean lianas (Letea and Caraorman) are to be found here as well. In the Danube Delta, the fauna, especially birds, the forests, especially those on the sandbanks of Letea and Caraorman or some typically deltaic landscapes have been protected since the Second World War. Today, because of its status of a Biosphere Reserve and its universal value, it is becoming more and more important for specialists, and it has been included in the UNESCO "Man and the Biosphere" program, in the UNESCO heritage and in the Ramsar Convention (RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance). The efficiency of the area management was acknowledged by the European Council which granted the European Diploma for Protected Regions in 2000 (diploma renewed in 2005). Nevertheless, the Delta means more than just wild nature. The fact that it was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1990 is an acknowledgement of the equal attention paid both to locals and their traditional way of living, based on the resources to be found in the area, as well as to the cultural heritage of the various ethnic groups. Thanks to the special characteristics of the Danube Delta, this region was designated "Landscape of the Year" by Friends of Nature International Austria; its exceptional ecological, scientific, esthetic, economic value and its special role at the level of the European protected regions led to the extension of this title for a period of two years, 2007-2008 respectively. The aim is to make the European community focus on the Danube Delta and the moment of this choice coincides with Romania joining the European Union. By implementing a modern management policy, based on the concept of sustainable development, the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority – the public institution whose role is the management of the region – attempts to cover both the ecological aspects of environment preservation and the other elements with impact on the population of the Delta, including development of infrastructure as well as social, cultural, environmental and community-related aspects.

by Paul Cononov