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Sketch Match from Sfântu Gheorghe Case Study


The Sfantu Gheorghe Case Study was undertaken by the National Institute for Research and Development “Danube Delta”, Tulcea, Romania, as part of the EU co-funded project on cross border maritime spatial planning in the Black Sea, Romania and Bulgaria (MARSPLAN - BS).The case study provides new findings about the hydrological impact of the Danube river and sedimentology, in the area of Sfântu Gheorghe which is located on the territory of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (Sacalin island). Based on morphological evolution analyses, led to the conclusion that the Sacalin Island is fragile and continuously under natural pressures which constantly changes its shape, it turned out that there is a need of protecting and conserving the new maritime ecosystems and, at the same time, of enhancing the awareness of all type of stakeholders, such as scientific community, conservationists, maritime spatial planners and economic environment. In order to fulfil this objective, active participation of relevant stakeholders is very important. The latter were involved by applying the Sketch Match methodology, which helped for identification of common issues, challenges and solutions for territorial development and coastal protection of Sfântu Gheorghe. 

2016 - 2017

Application in MSP:
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Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
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Questions this practice may help answer

  • What is the Sketch Match method used for?
  • Purpose and steps for applying the Sketch Match method?
  • How the Sketch Match method could be applied during the Maritime Spatial Planning process? 

Implementation Context

The objectives of the MARSPLAN–BS project are: (i) to support the implementation of the EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning; (ii) to establish an institutional framework for Romania-Bulgaria cross-border Maritime Spatial Planning; to consolidate the cross-border cooperation and exchange of information between Romania and Bulgaria on issues related to maritime area; (iv) to create a vision and strategic objectives for the Black Sea area, also taking into account the interaction between the territory and the sea; (v) to elaborate a Maritime Spatial Plan for the identified Romania-Bulgaria cross-border area (Mangalia - Shabla); and (vi) to disseminate information about Maritime Spatial Planning for the Black Sea and good practices to all relevant actors; (vii) to consult local and professional communities, aiming to underline interraction between traditional activities (fishing) and new ones (development of tourism for example) and to avoid the main conflicts (e.g.fisheries and Natura 2000).

The case study provides new findings with regard to the hydrological impact of the Danube river[1] and sedimentology, in the area included in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (Sacalin island) (see Figure 1). It is based on the Sketch Match method which is used for identifying and visualizing potential development paths and thus facilitates the decision-making process for managers, policymakers and local stakeholders.

Fig. 1. Sfântu Gheorghe case study area within Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. Source: MARSPLAN-BS Project, Case Study 2: Sfântu Gheorghe

Aspects / Objectives 

The first objective of the case study is to provide new findings on the hydrological impact of the Danube river and the morphology of sediments in Sfântu Gheorghe case study area located in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. The analysis was carried out for Sacalin island, situated at the mouth of Sfântu Gheorghe branch of the Danube river. This objective was reached by conducting a morphometric analysis of the coastal area and the sediment evolution morphology of the coastline of Sacalin island through reliable satellite images, databases and comparative examination considering the temporal framework from 1983 until 2013.

The second objective of the study was to identify and ensure full involvement of all stakeholders in order to work together for identifying common threats and solutions for territorial development, use and coastal protection in the context of Sfântu Gheorghe coastal dynamics. This objective was achieved by a complex participatory method, known as the Sketch Match method.


Sketch Match is an interactive planning method, developed by the Government Service for Land and Water Management in the Netherlands (DLG) to bring insight into spatial development issues together with regional partners.  It is used to identify and visualize potential development paths and so facilitate the decision-making process for managers, policymakers and local stakeholders. It is an intensive process that organisations and other interested parties can use in their own development areas.  

Sketch Match is a series of interactive design sessions lasting up to three days in which participants (citizens, policymakers, farmers and other stakeholders), under the supervision of a spatial designer and a process supervisor, analyse and work out the spatial problem in a specific region. It works like a creative pressure cooker by bringing together a group of interested parties to work intensively on a common design. This is worked out with maps and 3-D GIS visualisations.

The result of a Sketch Match session is a spatial design, in the form of a ground plan, map, book, visual story, model, 3-D GIS visualization, or whatever form best suits the project. 

Various disciplines come together in a Sketch Match: layout, GIS, ecology, hydrology, hydraulics, socio-economy, spatial planning etc. A thorough preparation, including a clear picture of the design assignment and the involved players, is very important. It holds that if the right people with the right expectations sit down at the design table, they increase the chance of success. 

A good Sketch Match brings parties together as people begin to understand each other's wishes and interests. It increases the support because participants accept a common plan, which they themselves have also sketched out. In the plan, they see their own wishes and interests, as well as the wishes and interests of others. A Sketch Match can thus act as a crowbar widening the frameworks in a creative way[2].

The Sketch Match participatory session for Sfantu Gheorghe case study consisted of three stages (see Figure 2 below) 

Fig. 2. Stages of Sketch Match interactive participatory process. Source: MARSPLAN-BS Project, Case Study 2: Sfântu Gheorghe

Two parallel interactive thematic working groups with stakeholders were conducted within Stage I: i) Spatial planning and Socio-economic activities; and ii) Environment, natural protection and biodiversity. Participants were representatives of a wide range of stakeholders, varying from local fisherman and local population, added to representatives of the Ministry of Environment, Tulcea County Council, Sfântu Gheorghe local Council, National Agency for Fishing and Aquaculture (NAFA), Tulcea Environment Protection Agency (EPA), Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority (DDBRA), National Institute for Marine Research and Development G.Antipa Constanta, National Institute for Research and Development URBAN-INCERC Bucharest.

The objective of Stage II was to draw up on maps common issues, challenges and solutions for Sfântu Gheorghe territorial development and coastal protection. In order to assure the interactivity of the participatory session, a set of thematic maps (such as land cover map, map of infrastructure and the fragmentation degree of coastal area, flood hazard map for 30 and 100 years) were produced in advance, on which the participants worked and sketched their own ideas and wishes in a common manner. 

In the Stage III, the subjects of discussions lead to an integrated and adapted analysis: problems, solutions, risks and potentials analysis, adapted after a SWOT analysis. Based on all discussions resulted from the meeting with stakeholders and SWOT analyses, the final integrated map was accomplished, taking into consideration all possible solutions drawn by stakeholders according to their point of view and interests, giving in this way the possibility of a better future management of Sfântu Gheorghe coastal area.

Five thematic maps were developed following the discussions and analyses: (i) Land Cover Map for Sfântu Gheorghe commune (see Figure 3 below); (ii) Map of infrastructure and the fragmentation degree of coastal area for Sfântu Gheorghe commune; (iii) Flood hazard map for 30 and 100 years for Sfântu Gheorghe commune; (iv) Historical bathymetric map of the mouth of Sfântu Gheorghe arm according to Hartley 1880; (v) Morphometric analyse of the coastal area of Sfântu Gheorghe commune.

Fig. 3. Land cover in Sfântu Gheorghe case study. Source: MARSPLAN-BS Project, Case Study 2: Sfântu Gheorghe


Main Outputs / Results

Case Study Report “Sketch Match from Sfântu Gheorghe Case Study”, including problems and conflicts evaluation and recommendations for their resolving in the wellbeing of local population.


The practice is fully applicable in other contexts, as it provides a framework and methodology for applying the Sketch Match method. In the frame of MARSPLAN BS Project it was applied in other two Case Studies, Eforie (for coastal erosion study and land – sea interaction) and Magalia-Shabla (for transboundary approach between Romania and Bulgaria).  The practice could be transferred in other areas by following the steps outlined in the report describing the preparatory work and the analysis related to application of Sketch Match.

Contact Person

Dr. Eng Iulian Nichersu

Scientific Directorof
Danube Delta National Institute 
for Research and Development

165 Babadag street, Tulcea 820112, Romania

E-mail: (iulian[dot]nichersu[at]ddni[dot]ro)

Tel.: +40 240 524 550

Web site:



MARSPLAN-BS communication contact

Tel.: +40 372 114 518

E-mail: (info[at]marsplan[dot]ro)


Responsible Entity 

Danube Delta National Institute for Research and Development, Tulcea, Romania

Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania

Costs / Funding Source

Funding Source: European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

Funding scheme: EASME/EMFF/2014/ - MSP projects Baltic, Black and North Seas


[1]The Danube flows into the Black Sea.

[2]Fred Voorbrood, 2007, SKETCH MATCH Rural Design approaches in workshop, publication of The Government Service for Land and Water Management