‘Saving’ the Danube Delta – much of which is Romanian territory – is one of the great causes of the day amongst the Bucharest chattering classes, many of whom support and donate money to an NGO called Asociaţia Salvaţi Dunărea şi Delta (Salvati Delta) (Save the Danube Delta Association). According to Salvati Delta, the Danube Delta is a paradise of biodiversity, a paradise that thoughtless people are in danger of destroying. ‘We are fighting against people for the good of nature,’ they claim.
This is how they like to present the Danube Delta:
Does it look wonderful? Yes. A paradise worth saving? Well, kind of.
You see, there is something missing from this lovely video.
Not wealthy people with comfortable lives who hang out in the fine cafes of Bucharest, but ordinary, bog-standard people. People who are in almost all cases dirt poor. People such as those featured in this (Romanian-language only) report, broadcast – to its eternal credit – on Romanian television channel Pro TV in 2009:
The Delta doesn’t look quite so much like paradise now, does it? Which begs the question: What is it Salvati Delta want to ‘save’? Is life for people in the Danube Delta really worth saving?
Then again, we are assuming that the interests of the people who live in the Danube Delta are being placed above any others. Maybe that is where we are going wrong.
We spent quite some time looking at the Salvati Delta website. We found almost no information about the people who live in the Delta. This ‘General Presentation’ of the Delta tells us how many species of insect, fish and bird live in the region, as well as informing us that there are 42 species of mammal – which might or might not include us, of course; just another mammal. There is a page devoted to flora, but the only real mention of people is in a negative context, on the pollution page.
That kind of says it all, really.
As the Pro TV reporter succinctly puts it at the end of her report: ‘as long as those responsible spend their time counting swans rather than thinking about the future of children in isolated villages, the Delta will remain a museum of backwardness, with its people condemned like Indians on a reservation to death by poverty.’
So forgive us if we do not buy into the whole ‘the Danube Delta is paradise’ thing.