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Cablegate: Romania: Bystroe Canal Hopes Sinking Despite International

VZCZCXRO0975
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBM #0511/01 1751156
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231156Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8425
RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV 0077
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000511

DEPT FOR EUR/NCE, EUR/UMB, OES

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PBTS PREL SENV UP RO
SUBJECT: ROMANIA: BYSTROE CANAL HOPES SINKING DESPITE INTERNATIONAL
SUPPORT

REF: 07 BUCHAREST 01276

Sensitive but Unclassified; not for Internet Distribution

1. (SBU) Summary: At a recent conference in Bucharest, 48 countries
- including, surprisingly, Ukraine itself - agreed that Ukraine's
work on the Bystroe Canal is not compliant with the Espoo
Convention. Despite this public admonishment, the Romanian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs (MFA) reported that Ukrainian dredging and
construction on the Canal resumed the very same day, reinforcing
pessimism at the MFA that Romania can persuade Ukraine to halt work
on the Canal, located in the ecologically sensitive Danube Delta.
Please see paragraph six below for background on the Bystroe
controversy. End Summary.

2. (U) According to a May 23 United Nations Economic Commission for
Europe (UNECE) press release, the Bystroe Canal issue was one of
several topics discussed in Bucharest at the May 19-21, 2008 "Fourth
Conference of the Parties of the Espoo Convention on Environmental
Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context." During the
conference, the 48 parties, largely European states including
Ukraine, voted unanimously that Ukraine was non-compliant with the
terms of the Espoo Convention in the Bystroe case. According to the
UNECE web site and local media reports, the countries agreed that
articles two, three, four, and five, regulating the authorization of
projects with potential cross-border environmental impacts, were not
adhered to.

3. (SBU) As a result of this finding, the UNECE press release states
that the parties to the Convention issued a "caution" to the
Government of Ukraine (GOU) requesting that all work on the Bystroe
Canal be stopped, and giving the GOU until October 31, 2008 to
comply. In response, the Ukrainian delegation - under heavy
pressure, according to the MFA - pledged to consider discontinuing
the project and promised to postpone Phase Two until the provisions
of the Convention have been fully implemented. According to a May
2007 Espoo Inquiry Commission report, Phase Two of the project is
slated to include the dredging of various shallow channels upstream,
the establishment of additional dumpsites for dredged material, and
the expansion of a retaining dam built during Phase One of
construction.

4. (SBU) Econoffs met on May 30 with Dumitru Liviu, Chief of the
Department for Border and Maritime Issues at the MFA's Legal Affairs
Directorate, to follow up on the results of the Conference. He said
that on the very same day that Ukraine vowed to consider halting
work, dredging and construction on the Bystroe Canal resumed after a
lull. His disappointment stems from the fact that several
international bodies, including the International Inquiry Commission
under the 2006 Economic Commission for Europe Environmental Impact,
have sided with the Romanians, but to little apparent effect. He
complained that the Espoo Convention lacks sufficient enforcement
mechanisms, and without them, there were few incentives for the GOU
to stop work.

5. (SBU) According to Liviu, progress toward a bilateral monitoring
mechanism (reftel) has also come to a standstill. This monitoring
mechanism was to be comprised of experts from both countries and
established by the end of November 2007. Liviu reported that the
monitoring mechanism simply was not feasible, as Ukraine has not
provided the necessary impact assessments and remains unwilling to
discuss environmental impact mitigation, compensation, or
alternatives. Liviu said that Romania has begun discussions of
possible bilateral and multilateral measures to use as a last
resort, since Ukraine is in breach of several conventions relating
to wetlands and wildlife protection.

6. (SBU) Background: The Danube Delta was designated an
Internationally Important Wetland and UNESCO World Heritage Site in
1991, due in part to its importance to millions of migratory birds.
Ukrainian authorities started work on the Bystroe Canal in the
Danube Delta in 2004, with the intent of opening a deep-water route
under their control from the Black Sea to the Danube River to reduce
ship transit costs. Various international bodies and NGOs have
determined that dredging the Bystroe Canal will likely have a
significant negative impact on the Danube Delta ecosystem, about 80%
of which is in Romania. In July 2006, the UNECE Environmental
Impact Assessment International Inquiry Commission, in accordance
with the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessments in a
Transboundary Context, unanimously concluded that work on the
Bystroe Canal will have a significant, negative transboundary
impact. The UN Commission ited the loss of floodplain habitats for
spawning fish and nesting birds, the impact from the increased
concentration of suspended sediments on fish downstream, and the
muddier waters resulting from dumping sediment into the Black Sea.
The Commission recommended steps on cooperation to assess and
mitigate the environmental damage caused by the dredging. End
Background.

BUCHAREST 00000511 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) Comment: Despite the recent Espoo Convention ruling and
Ukrainian pledges, the pessimistic mood within the Romanian MFA has
deepened. Bucharest is frustrated by what it sees as cynical
Ukrainian moves, such as voting to find Ukraine out of Espoo
compliance on the very day that work resumed on the disputed Canal.
Unless new deterrent penalties are added to the Espoo Convention -
something very unlikely to happen before the Bystroe Canal project
is finished - Romania sees little prospect of forcing Ukraine to
stop the dredging. In the short term, international experts
including the UN estimate there will be a negative impact on the
habitats of many birds, plants and fish native to the Delta,
including several endangered species of sturgeon. If and when the
Canal becomes fully operational, there could be continued damage
caused by maintenance dredging and shipping traffic. End Comment.

TAPLIN

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