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Danube, between projects and achievements

Danube takes only 3% of the goods transported in Romania, a tiny proportion of the longest European river.Apparently, the growth potential of inland water transport business operators is enormous, but this brief conclusion is wrong. The Natural and political factors represented in time serious obstacles to the development of transport on the Danube.The river is not navigable throughout the whole year, and public works with tremendous value, such as the Danube-Black Sea channel proved to be unprofitable due to some insufficiently obstacles that were not taken into account.The Ministry of Transports has planned the commencement of works that will eliminate at least one of the problems of navigation on the Danube: the imposibility to ensure the minimum depth during periods of low water. 

The Danube is a difficult river : during winter the navigation is blocked by ice, and in other months of the year the flow decreases so much that the water depth does not allow the barges to pass.If ice can be removed, there are no simple solutions for the periods of low water."The common practice is to make measurements to identify areas where you can move fairway" explained Mr. Cornel Martincu, executive manager of the Institute of Design for Road, Water and Air. Such solutions exist, but temporarily. There are areas in the fairway where repositioning is not possible.it is the case of the appropriate river sector between Calarasi and Braila. Between these two cities, the Danube changes its course to the north and split into two main branches - the Old Danube and Borcea, connected by several secondary branches.An old problem is related to one of the side arms, called Bala and located in Parjoaia.The Parjoaia rock is a rocky hill that goes down in the bed of the Danube, on her right bank.This rock directs water flow towards Bala, the secondary arm that connects the Old Danube by Borcea arm by crossing Ialomitei island. In periods of low water, up to 80% of the Danube's flow is directed into Bala's arm and the Old Danube receives 20% -30%.Due to this phenomenon, the Old Danube flows make impossible the maintainance of the required depths, that is of 2.5 m navigation.Every year, for 3-4 months, boats can not go through this area in normal conditions

A bad... arm

The Bala Arm was also named the Bad Arm due to its evolution during the past few decades that caused problems both to navigation and to other uses of the river downstream.The old river hydro plans made during the communist regime, included the construction of large dams designed to ensure the water supply (the irrigation, the industry or the households), reducing the effects of flooding and improving the navigation conditions.In the "Golden Age" the problem of the Parjoaia - Bala had to be solved. "As a solution, he designed a bottom sill on Bala's arm,but the works were not carried out," the IPTANA's general manager told us. The problem of the flows redistribution from Bala's mouth in favor of the Old Danube was in the attention of specialists since the 50's of last century, starting with the works on the Danube-Black Sea channel. Based on topographic and hydrologic measurements available at that time, as well as on some case studies made at Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), three solutions have been made:

  • the Bala Arm relocation upstream the rock;
  • achieving a guiding wall on the Bala's left side to direct the mainstream on the Old Danube;
  • the Bala Arm reinforcement with an unsinkable dam and relocation of it's mouth downstream in Turcescu Arm area.

The abandoning of works at Danube Black Sea channel in 1953 lead to the receding of the above mentioned solutions. Between the years 1973 1979, the documentation related to the investment for the Steel Plant in Calarasi was prepared. Finally, the completion of the plant in Calarasi delayed a lot, and the works on the riverbed were no longer performed.Since 1990, the projects have been updated and it was proposed an execution of a single threshold on Bala's arm in order to increase the flows on the Old Danube to meet the needs of water to cool the reactors at the Cernavoda plant. The Works started on the projects developed by IPTANA in 1987 were made partly with interruptions due to the discontinuity of budget financing.Nowadays, only the Turcescu's isle defense is completed. The Dam closure and control was achieved in 60% threshold bottom - 20% was managed partial closure of a single arm side (Bunny), and about 10% of the rock unrocked Parjoaia.

Discontinued permanently in 1995, the work unfinished neck area Bala have led to accelerate the absorption phenomenon on this arm of the largest part of Danube flow in periods with small waters. For this reason, were drastically reduced depths and navigation have serious difficulties in ensuring the cooling flow rates of the plant only functional reactor at Cernavoda. Moreover, the reactor was closed temporarily and cause small cooling flow.

European assistance for a Romanian problem

During the last years the amount of water taken from the arm Bala increased significantly, which resulted in a doubling of the necessary annual maintenance dredging fairway from 300,000 cubic meters / year to 700,000 cubic meters / year.Although they spend more money for dredging, IT WAS FELT no REASONABLE improvement available for navigation.In these conditions, the main navigation between Calarasi and Danube Black Sea CHANNEL is diverted ON THE route Bala-Borcea-Vadu Sheep - Cernavoda, with 105 km longer than the direct ONE. .THE bypass variant, on average for 160 days a year when the water depth on the Old Danube falls into specific points at 1.40m. This leads to an increase of $ 1.5 / ton cost of transport of goods by river. Given the additional costs and lost time to bypass the mouth Bala - Cernavoda Danube - Black Sea sees its imortance prejudiced .the Traffic volume is far below the channel capacity for which it was designed. "The channel is not used at its full capacity, but it must be said that it takes decades to achieve such a goal.The state could support the shipping defavoring the road, because now, the terrestrial infrastructure is subjected to high pressure, considering that the Danube is underused ", says Cornel Martincu. Since the budgetary resources available in the '90s proved to be insufficient to resolve the navigation extensive works, the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Tourism (MTCT) has requested and obtained funding for technical assistance in updating the investment projects.A consortium of foreign companies rebuilt the saver project at Bala arm mouth at the same rates indicated by IPTANA, as the heads of the institute sustain."To improve the navigation conditions on the Calarasi- Braila section are provided investments of 56 million Euros, and for the similar works on the Bulgarian section of the river will be allocated 74 million euros," said Alexandros us Galiatatos, the MTCT's Secretary of state.The works should be financed from the Cohesion Funds provided after Romania's accession in EU. With European money could be completed some other projects aimed to improve the navigation conditions that began before 1989 and that were subsequently abandoned."To Bucharest-Danube channel, the infrastructure works are completed in 60% proportion and it would be a shame to throw the money left. maybe, at short notice, the navigation on this channel would have a less important role, but i'm sure that the entire adjiacent area would develop.When the project was done, they had multiple uses - transportation, irrigation, flow regulation and fish ... it wasn't taken into account the sailing pleasure boats that is talking lately. even if it seems forced, Bucharest deserves a marina as well as Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava', the IPTANA's general manager told us.

A lot of perspectives, only will needed !!

The completion of all works to improve the navigation conditions on the Danube which are obsolete will allow a spectacular development of river transport. "The most tempting side is the side of shipping containerized cargo. From Constanta, the containers go by railway and by road, each of these ways having a share of 50% from the total traffic.Nor can it be otherwise, because in the Romanian Danube ports does not exist the adequate infrastructure for handling the containers, although in the neighboring countries exist such terminals.Based on studies of the site, the most appropriate terminal would be in Galati, for which there is a complete project, but there are prospects for the free area Giurgiu, Calarasi and Turnu Severin. Also, the harbors near Bucharest - Giurgiu and Oltenita, have a high development potential, "said Cornel Martincu. However, the natural factors are not the only ones that influence the evolution of transport on the Danube. Political will has also an important role, even if the authorities are struggling to suggest that they can not influence the economical activity in the manner practiced before 1989. "There is a tradition for transport on the Danube, and if you were to give an example, Austria is the most eloquent. At one point, more than half of the goods in transit through Braila and Galati were from Austria and were destined to arrive in this country. With increasing the dimensions of transport ships, the Danube has lost its importance, other routes being preferred . Now, the Danube is used in only 7% of its capacity, while the Rhine potential transport is used in 70%. Some poliitical factors lead at this situation. The Rhine was spared of problems such as the embargo of the ex Yugoslavia. As a personal opinion, I think that the solving of the problems that the ex Yogoslavia raises could have been done in other ways.When bombing the bridges over the Danube, the Romans transport operators have suffered a shock from which many have not returned, "Stefan Popa told us, the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bucharest.

Articol original: RBT editia nr. 3/Ianuarie 2007 - Dunarea, intre proiecte si realizari