Danube Delta (1991)
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The waters of the Danube, which flow into the Black Sea, form the largest and best preserved of Europe's deltas. The Danube delta hosts over 300 species of birds as well as 45 freshwater fish species in its numerous lakes and marshes.
Visiting the Danube Delta is like a dream coming true; beautiful, attractive and absolutely inexhaustible. Geologically its 5.800 square kilometers of rivers, canals, swamps, lakes and islets is Europe's newest land. Romania enlarges each year from the deposits of the Danube's 2.860 long run from the Black Forest in Southern Germany through Central and Eastern Europe, before disappearing into the Black Sea. The flora and fauna of the delta is non-equaled in Europe, and in the delta's villages live around 15.000 people of several nationalities, languages, religions and cultures, with only one thing in common - their daily life and outcome from the Delta.
The American ornithologist and artist, John James Audubon (1785-1851), has painted the below birds that are all endemic to the United States, but also live in natural habitats in the Danube Delta. Romania celebrated Audubon's birth bicentenary in 1985.
The story behind the Danube Delta is less idyllic, and the fight about the river and the delta goes hundreds of years back. Duty-free sailing on the river and control of the delta was, as early as 1616 granted to Austria by Turkey. With Russia entering the international scene, the Russian Czar conquered the northern part of the Chilia Canal in 1810; the Adrianapolis Treaty of 1829 granted Russia sole control over the Danube estuary in the Black Sea, and thus also control of sailing the Danube.
By the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1856), which ended the Crimean War, a European commission was established to control the delta. The commission made a number of changes in the delta and in the lower reaches of the river beneficial to navigation. The Treaty of Versailles (1919), concluding World War I, confirmed the European commission, and set up another one to control the Danube above the delta. During World War II (1939-1945) the commissions were abolished by Nazi Germany, which controlled all of the river from 1940 to 1944. After the war the Communist-bloc nations bordering the river formed a new Danube Commission, headquartered at Budapest. Austria was admitted in 1960 and West Germany in 1963.
The Ceaucescu-regime that came to power after WWII, showed a total disregard for nature and environment, which was flatly perceived as an obstacle to be "overcome". Post-war industrialization of Europe led enormous amounts of waste and scrap into the river. The Romanian industry, ignoring the wastes, steadily emphasized the pollution, and an environmental disaster was a reality by the mid-1980s. The situation is now slowly improving by international control, and restriction of tourism in the most vulnerable areas.
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage Sites in Romania (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Romania-Section, for further information about the individual properties.
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Revised 21 jul 2006