The Island of Belene is the biggest island in Bulgarian waters. The island is formed by the Danube River splitting into two branches passing north and south of it. The international frontier between Bulgaria and Romania follows the north branch of the river.
In the 1950’s, the island was surrounded by dikes and the wetlands were drained. But after more than 50 years, the dikes were re-opened and the Danube flooded the island again, creating a wetland that is home to hundreds of rare birds: Dalmatian pelicans, Ferruginous duck, Pygmy cormorants, terns, herons and others.
This large scale restoration project was part of Bulgaria’s commitment to the Lower Danube Green Corridor. Belene Island was one of the pilot sites (Kalimok Marsh was the other) which was restored under the project “Wetlands restoration and pollution reduction” financed by GEF / World Bank. The project was executed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Waters. It cost more than 13 millions USD, started in 2001 and was successfully completed in late 2008.
Reconnecting former floodplain forests and wetlands with the river has provided opportunities for fishing and economic benefits from grasslands and wetland resources, along with the survival of the riverine floodplain forest as an ecologic benefit. This model project, along with the restoration of Kalimok Marsh, was the first of its type in Bulgaria.
Belene Island is a part of Persina Natural Park, a home to over 170 species of rare water birds.