The meadow area on the Camenca river could be compromised for good if the natural flowing watercourse of the river, which crosses 14 villages in Glodeni district and the Nature Reserve “Pădurea Domnească”, is not rehabilitated.
This happens because of human activity. In the 70s of the last century, the main concern seemed to be to avoid flooding in villages neighboring the river, but also the interest to catch water for personal amenities. Thus, near Balatina, a canal was built redirecting water into the Prut river, and not in parallel, as the natural flowing was.
As a result, 40 kilometers of the natural bed of Camenca river, the segment that parallel with Prut river was hosting hatching birds and represented probably the largest wetland in the north-west region of the country, dried up. And wetlands bring along multiple services to the society, which were either neglected or not fully realized
“This canal has brought over time more harm than benefit to the ecosystems created in the meadow area of Prut river and its tributary Camenca, through the disappearance of species of grasses, trees. All the ponds and puddles, which formed on a width of 2–3 km between Prut and Camenca rivers, dried up. This is also the negative effect of anthropogenic actions, which have caused this disaster that we have now,” underlined Marian Țărnă, deputy president of Glodeni district.
After the 90s, water reservoirs for fish farming and livestock breeding were built on the Camenca river, with a total area of over 20–30 ha.
All these human interventions are topped up by the effects of climate change, which becomes increasingly unpredictable and with deep impact due to low resilience because of hydrological disorders, namely drying of the river and its ponds.
In 2022, UNDP will start a project, funded by the Global Environment Facility and with contributions from national authorities, which aims at revitalizing the natural watercourse of the river and bring back the biological diversity on the territory of “Pădurea Domnească” Reserve.
From meadow area to semi-desert
“It is of paramount importance to recover the old watercourse of Camenca river in order to bring the surface waters to normality, because in the area of the localities Cuhnești, Balatina, Bisericani the water from the mine wells disappeared. The water quality is poor, it is not good for consumption and even in some, places it has disappeared from the wells,” says Marian Țărnă, deputy president of Glodeni district.
This would be a gain of the villagers of the 14 localities.
People agree that the return to the natural watercourse of the river, the one created and adjusted by nature, is the only solution: “Following the discussions with the residents, everyone believes that it would be good to return the Camenca river to the riverbed that it had, because we know that climate conditions regarding floods are not so harsh now. There is also Costești dam, that regulates the overflows of the Prut river and there is almost a semi-deserted in the old course of Camenca river, and we have lost harmony for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems in the meadow,” says Marian Țărnă.
“I have lived here for 87 years and floods happended here back in the 1955 and it was no big deal. Floods may happen in any case. If the Danube rises, it floods all in its path. Before, there has always been water on Camenca. We had always water for birds, for cattle. There was reed. Nothing is left now. They locked-up water with Balatina canal. There is no water in Bisericani. There’s no water in Cuhnești. There is no water in Domneasca. There is no water at all. Look, everything is dry here. Everything is dry. There are still a few springs, which run from the earth. We must let the water flow as it used to,” says Anatolie Hangiuc, who has lived all his life on the bank of Camenca river, in Moara Domnească village.
Where once a meadow area used to be, now they graze goats, grandpa Anatolie sadly says, hoping to live to see his native village as times ago: with ponds, reeds, vegetation and fauna.
“If it does not rain, it will be all gone here”
People made special pits in which at least some water accumulates from springs that are barely dripping and where rainfall gathers for watering the animals.
We found Valeriu Cecan and Eugeniu Turcan with the herd grazing on the old Camenca riverbed. Even if now the cattle are cooling in the water accumulated in a puddle after rain, they said in a few days there would be no water here. It will be more complicated. In Balatina there is one more water source at the old sand quarry, where cattle can get water when there is no rain. Other villages take their cattle all the way to Prut, they said. They remembered how in the place they were sitting now, the water used to get to one’s neck in the old days, and in the place of cows there were swans, birds and wild ducks, fish… and now it’s all a dessert.
“The inhabitants had plenty of water. There were also some marshes in the area full of water, flora and fauna were special. But now, unfortunately all has dried up, it is outrageous. People are resentful, as because of these changes they are suffering,” says Angela Ceban, mayor of Cuhnești.
Deviation of the natural course of the river — an ecological catastrophe
The rehabilitation of the natural course of Camenca river would contribute to the return of the species of birds that were once coming to the wetland, such as swans, ducks, geese, herons. The picturesque landscape, the river flowing along the scattered chains of calcareous reefs, are prerequisites for the development of rural tourism — a real income for the local population and an impetus for the development.
“There will be huge benefits, the population will suffer no more and we hope tourism will develop. Where there is no water, there is nothing. In spring, autumn, here it used to be both fauna and birds, and swans, now there is nothing”, concludes the mayor of Cuhnești.
Ion Carauș is a member of the Bureau of Hunters of Glodeni commune and remembers that he decided to move from Nistru riverbank to the Prut riverbank, being struck by the beauty of the place:
The first time I saw this valley, it left me speechless. It was a valley full of water, with a very diverse ecosystem, with all kinds of birds, a beauty… and I stayed… Years passed, humans got involved and this area turned into an ecological catastrophe. It’s been several years since we don’t have water.”
The dryed-up riverbed wreaks havoc on the ecosystem, the lifeline being the nearby Prut river: “The ecosystem has lost its scale. Birds are not the same, fauna is not the same. The water was as clean as a mirror, now the place is all reeds. There are so many pests, all we do is fight them. We have nothing else,” Ion Carauș says.
The fish, which used to be plenty, is gone, the geese make no longer any fuss on the pond: “The pond used to feed them all. Nobody is looking for buying fish. This area is slowly dying. Here, there used to be geese, people were farming poultry, now, since there is no water, people do not farm anything. Everything used to be white because of geese. Nothing is left,” says Ion Carauș. Now, the region is “haunted” by jackals and foxes.
“I remember my mother telling me how she returned from the collective farm, from working the land, how she took the net, put it in the pond and took out two or three kilograms of fish, went home, but already the cauldron was on the fire and she made soup. Today, there is fish only in artificial ponds. The area was a corner of heaven,” recalls Gheorghe Barancea, a resident of the village of Movileni.
Without water, Padurea Domneasca is a “dead zone”
Camenca river is part of the area of the Natural Reserve “Pădurea Domnească”, near the village of Balatina, flows parallel to the Prut river to the Rusului Valley, where it is the mouth, for a distance of about 40 km. In the area of the Camenca-Prut parallelism, there was also the meadow area, severely affected by the canal that redirected the course of the water.
“Year after year, and I have been working since ’93 at Padurea Domneasca, here there were brooks full of water. Now, in 2021, we have ended up having Camenca river from Balatina completely dried-up. There is still water in some regions where there are springs,” says Serghei Bucătari, deputy director of “Pădurea Domnească” Reserve.
In the area of the Reserve, situated in the meadow of Prut, there used to be three main groups of trees: oaks, poplars and willows. “Willows have by now almost dried-up; the level of underground waters went down and there is an increase in the salinity of the soil. At the same time, these are substituted with aggressive species like American maple or species that we introduce. It is important to bring back water to the meadow, not only for the forest, but also for the villages and the population,” says Serghei Bucătari.
The return to the natural course of the river might mean the revival of the meadow
Camenca river, which is part of the Danube-Prut-Black Sea river basin district, is in a deplorable state, says Radu Cazacu, Deputy Director of the “Apele Moldovei” Agency: “Camenca river is polluted, there are many unauthorized dumpsites, wastewater discharges and all these have negatively influenced water quality. We hope that if we rehabilitate the natural course, this river will again deploy its possibilities of natural water purification.”
Radu Cazacu believes that the meadow area could be revived: “This is also shown by the international experience, that along with the revitalization of these rivers, biodiversity returns. Birds, fish, etc., would return.”
Text: Laura Bohanțova. Photos: Ion Buga