According to a draft law submitted to the Environment Ministry in July this year by the Danube Delta Biosphere Reservation Authority (ARBDD) the last wild beaches from Sulina and Sfantu Gheorghe could be given through concession to private companies by auction. The project stipulates that the beaches can be rented for a ten-year period and the warranty to participate in this auction will cost 10 percent of the annual rent.
The representatives of the Reservation Authority say that 50 percent of the funds collected annually will be spent on the protection and conservation of the beaches and on studies to stop beach erosion. But as the Reservation Authority is subordinated to the Environment Ministry, the money should go, according to the law, to the state budget. A decision regarding the privatization will be taken soon, as an answer from the Environment Ministry regarding the project is expected.
Project sparks debate between local authorities
The ARBDD's plan to use 50 percent of the money that will be raised from annual rent is being contested by the local authorities in Sfantu Gheorghe and Sulina. The mayor of Sfantu Gheorghe, Dumitru Dimache, and vice-mayor of Sulina, Andrei Mihai, have criticized the decision of the Reservation Authority to privatize the beaches, saying that the project does not stipulate a pre-emption right for the local authorities. “We studied the project and we saw that the beaches could be rented to any private person or company without any right for local authorities. Although the beaches aren't administrated by anyone right now we take care of the cleaning and the road is also kept in good condition by us. We should be the ones to have the first right to get the beaches and only if we couldn't administrate them, then get the involvement of private companies,” said Dimache.
Delta makes fertile land for new developments
While the Danube Delta Reservation authorities and Sfantu Gheorghe and Sulina mayors are busy with the debate, some business people have already expressed their interest in renting the beaches, while others have already developed projects in the area.
Silviu Prigoana, owner of Rosal Grup, and Bogdan Buzaianu, a businessman with links with Energy Holding, are just a few of the names that have expressed interest in the business potential of the Danube Delta.
Many businessmen have built in recent years million-euro “nests” in the region. Alexandru Bittner, a friend of former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, owns the Eden complex at Gura Portitei and through his companies controls several of the concessions in the Danube Delta. The cost of a room in this tourist complex is almost EUR 100, while an apartment costs EUR 125. But with the development of large scale tourist operations comes the downside for those who used to choose the Delta for a more modest accommodation. The tents that were widespread on the beach are no longer common sight at Gura Portitei.
Another businessman involved in Delta projects is Sorin Marin. The founder of film festival “Anonymous,” which takes place each August at Sfantu Gheorghe, has invested several million euros in the Delfinul complex. Here a four-star all-inclusive room costs more than EUR 200 per person per day.
Businessman Robert Raduta has exploited the resources of Chilia from 2003. A former tennis coach, Raduta is the president of the hunting association “Zimbrul” and has become involved in sportive fishing contests.
An established luxury complex in the Delta is Delta Resort. Built just a few years ago on the banks of Lake Samova, this five-star resort for people with above-average incomes is already on the radar of magazines and newspapers such as Conde Nast Traveller, Vogue and The Times, and has been included in the catalog of the world's luxury hotels.
State promises helping hand for Delta investments
In May this year the government announced that it would invest EUR 140 million until 2015 in the program to protect and develop the Danube Delta. “More than half of the sum will be spent on projects for the development of infrastructure, and public utilities such as transportation and communication,” said Attila Korodi, the environment minister.
The funds are welcomed because the area needs this type of investment.It remains to be seen how Romania's emerging middle class will benefit from this.