Case study on river management: Prespa

The endangered brown bear (<i>Ursusarctos</i>) is found around the Prespa basin rel=
The endangered brown bear (Ursusarctos) is found around the Prespa basin
© WWF-Canon / Darren JEW
The Prespa basin, covering a total area of 2,519 km², contains the lakes Mikri ('small') Prespa and Megali ('large') Prespa and is situated in the Balkans, straddling the borders of Albania, Greece, and FYR of Macedonia.

The basin has no surface outflow, with Mikri Prespa flowing into Megali Prespa, which in turn flows into the Ohrid Lake basin via subterranean channels and from there to the Adriatic Sea.

The area is famed for its natural beauty, high biodiversity, and outstanding cultural values (e.g. Byzantine monuments, traditional architecture, unique artisanal fishing methods).

Significant parts of the lakes and adjoining wetlands in the territories of Greece and FYR of Macedonia are designated as Ramsar Sites.

Socio-economic importance
Around 5,000 people in the Albanian part of the basin are engaged mainly in subsistence farming, the former collective agricultural system having been abandoned since the collapse of the totalitarian regime. Basic infrastructure has deteriorated and communities are under strong economic pressure to overexploit natural resources.
Rural depopulation and unemployment have characterized the region, especially in Greece. However, 75% of the population (about 1,200 people in 13 villages) in the Greek sector continue to rely on agriculture, especially mono-cultivation of beans, for their livelihoods, though increasing tourism offers alternative income generation.

The portion of the basin within the territory of FYR of Macedonia is the most densely populated. Here, over 17,500 inhabitants live in some 40 settlements, though strong rural-urban migration is resulting in an ageing and declining population. Fruit growing is the major activity, while the manufacturing sector employs about 3,000 people.
Area map - click to enlarge / ©: WWF
Area map - click to enlarge
© WWF

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