Troubles in paradise: on ecology, policy making and resource depletion in the Danube Delta

Oana Ivan

Chair(s): Esther Stouthamer

Tuesday 30 june 2015

9:30 - 9:50h at Asia (level 0)

Themes: (T) Special session, (ST) Deltas from multiple pressures to integrated solutions

Parallel session: 4C. Special session: Deltas - from multiple pressures to integrated solutions

In 1991, the Danube Delta, the largest marshland in Europe, famous for its biodiversity, became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Due to this designation, new regulations concerning local use of the environment have been imposed by the Romanian government and the European Union. Relying on participant observation, in-depth interviews, oral histories and archival work as main research methods, this paper scrutinizes from a cultural anthropologic perspective the changes in the local patterns of natural resource use before, (1880s-1950s), during (1960s-1980s) and after communism (1989). The findings discuss how the resource exploitation of fish and ecologic management of Danube Delta has been under constant transformation, from capitalist system, to communist one, and back to capitalism combined with “green” policies today. The second part of the research focuses on the present practices pointing to the locals’ perceptions of the changes occurred over the past century and the problems they face today in the context of resource depletion and climate change. Moreover, considering the fact that it seems that personal agenda of the authorities weights more than the rule of law, locals from the Danube Delta see democracy and environmental protection rules as a means for people in key positions to have a monopoly over the highly valued resources of the protected areas, which they profit from in illicit ways. Consequently, this research argues that due to new environmental policy-making, that systematically ignored the local participation, and due to the weak law enforcement in the context of post-communism, the fishing communities in the Danube Delta experience an acute social and environmental degradation today.

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