Romania vs Ukraine: not the time for environmentalism?
Has Ukraine increased the depth of the Bystre Canal in the protected Danube Delta from 3.9 to 6.5 metres without permission to improve navigability for freight ships? The Ukraine Ministry of Infrastructure posted a Tweet to this effect, but the message was quickly deleted and replaced with the explanation that only maintenance work had been carried out. What really happened remains unclear, but there have been indignant reactions on the Romanian side of the Delta. Some commentators stress that now is not the time to challenge Ukraine.
A lack of good sense
The dispute will convey a false impression of Romania’s attitude towards Ukraine, republica.ro comments anxiously:
“The reaction of Romanian institutions is on the whole justified (Ukraine has admitted that the Bystre Canal was dug deeper than the regulations allow), but it only fuels anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian propaganda. To make a big fuss over Ukraine stepping on your toes while Russia is holding a gun to Ukraine’s head shows — at best — a lack of emotional intelligence and political good sense. The result is that the world is left thinking that Romania has a problem with Ukraine rather than with Russia. Which wrongly puts the country on a par with the Hungary of a Putinist Orbán.”
Violations are violations
But Evenimentul Zilei argues that the problem must be discussed openly despite Ukraine being at war:
“The nonsensical accusations that this is pro-Russian propaganda are a typical tactic when the aim is to sweep the dirt under the carpet. But they have a major flaw: the Ukrainians are deepening the Bystre Canal without having asked Romania for permission, and in doing so they are violating international treaties. They lied when they said they would only be carrying out maintenance on the canal (this would be the first time in history that the depth of a riverbed doubles during the cleaning process). Tomorrow or the day after, they could start building a hydroelectric power plant on the Bystre Canal, and we would simply look on and not lift a finger.”
Environmental concerns also on the Ukrainian side
Thepage.ua sees good reasons not to expand the canal:
“From the beginning, environmentalists, including Ukrainians, have actively opposed this project. ... There are well-founded concerns that the construction and operation of this canal will have a negative impact on the Danube Delta and the coastal zone of the Bystre estuary. In addition, the construction of the dams may have a border-crossing impact due to changes in the nature of the erosion and sediment movement. The deepening of the channel will increase the volume of water flowing through it, which will affect the flow patterns of other tributaries and could have negative consequences for the entire Danube Delta.”
Diplomatic channels should have been used
This dispute should have been settled behind closed doors, Spotmedia comments with annoyance at the public criticism of politicians:
“What about holding a bilateral dialogue on this issue, before sending public messages in a nationalist manner? A dispute that should have been discussed at the diplomatic level has been thrown into the public arena in a populist style: a bone to stir up Romania and promote the Russophile narrative in which Ukraine is not (only) the victim, but also the aggressor (in this case the aggressor against the Danube Delta).”