Lake conservation in the Balkans

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East > Eastern Europe > Albania

Europe/Middle-East > Eastern Europe > Macedonia > The Former Yugoslav Republic of
Europe/Middle-East > Southern Europe > Greece

Panoramic view of Micro Prespa and Agios Achillios island, the only inhabited island of the Prespa Park. Greece.
© WWF Greece / Fotini Vatkitzidou

Summary

Straddling the borders of Albania, Greece and the FYR of Macedonia are the Prespa lakes. Covering a total area of 2,519 km², the region is known for its natural beauty and high biodiversity, notably a large breeding colony of Dalmatian pelicans. Pollution and intensive water use for agriculture, however, have had a major impact on the lakes.

To protect the area, WWF and its partners are undertaking a number a number of initiatives, including conservation management, environmental education and the promotion of sustainable development projects.

Background

One of the major tasks for the SPP is to accomplish these activities that will ensure, in the long term, the sustainable management of the wet meadows. These include 5 major components:

a. Water level management in Mikri Prespa.
b. Vegetation management in the littoral zone.
c. Bird and vegetation monitoring.
d. Land ownership aspects occurring at areas where wet meadows and other important habitats are located.
e. Socioeconomic sustainability of the wetland management activities.

As in previous years, SPP efforts will be concentrated towards the organisation of these activities in cooperation with local partners, regional authorities, public services at national level but also with the relevant partners from the neighbouring countries.

The second major task is the accomplishment of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Study in relation to the uncontrolled land use and construction in the Prespa region. SPP has already started the preparation of the study. However, due to the fact that many services and bodies need to comment on this study, SPP will be concerned with this issue one more year. At the same time, in order to avert major destruction to landscape and habitats, SPP has to not only closely follow, but also intervene in the authorisation of development plans and programmes to be implemented in the area. This could be done by SPP, either within the framework of the management body of the Prespa National Forest, or independently.

This is so for the Greek part. For the neighbouring countries, SPP was selected to strengthen its policy as regards to neighbouring alliances, stimulating local people, training and involving local partners in conservation issues and initiatives. Still in the transboundary context, a main challenge SPP is facing this year is the beginning of a large GEF co-funded project in the Prespa Park area (total budget: USD 13.5 mio), in combination with the inactivity characterising the attitude of the Greek government towards transboundary cooperation in Prespa for the last 2 years.

To financially support the above programme, SPP heavily relies upon one major institutional and programme grant provided (through WWF Greece) by the MAVA Foundation. In the long term, this is not considered as a viable situation. One of the biggest challenges facing SPP in the next few years is to gradually reduce its reliance on one financial donor and increase its income from other sources.

Objectives

- Implementation of the LIFE project titled “Conservation of Priority Bird Species in Lake Mikri Prespa, Greece”.

- Promotion of sustainable land use, spatial planning and zoning of activities in the Greek part of Prespa.

- Enhancement of the institutional status of the Transboundary Prespa Park and promotion of joint protection, management and sustainable development activities at the basin level.

- Development of the fundraising capacity of the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP).

Solution

Objective I: Implementation of the LIFE project titled “Conservation of Priority Bird Species in Lake Mikri Prespa, Greece”

a. Production of a “Guideline Document on the Restoration and Maintenance of Wet Meadows in Lake Mikri Prespa”. This will cover the wet meadows management issue in an integrated way.

b. Effective operation of the Prespa National Forest Water Management Committee through the hydro-meteorological monitoring of Lake Mikri Prespa.

c. Continuation of vegetation management by grazing and summer cutting at 10 littoral sites aiming at further improving vegetation characteristics and creating optimal conditions for feeding birds.

d. Continuation of bird and vegetation monitoring activities which will provide the necessary indices for the evaluation of the water and vegetation management activities.

e. Wardening.

Objective II: Promotion of sustainable land use, spatial planning, and zoning of activities in the Greek part of Prespa

- Critical factors for the progress of the study are the collection of comments on the first phase by the public authorities in time and the immediate start of the second phase of the study. In parallel public awareness activities will facilitate the public discussion that is planned to be organised after the accomplishment of the second phase.

Objective III: Enhancement of the institutional status of the Transboundary Prespa Park and promotion of joint protection, management and sustainable development activities at the basin level

- SPP will continue its efforts in order to increase motivation and participation of all significant stakeholders in the Prespa basin at the national and local level, as well as of the 3 governments and the donor community at the international level. As a result, it will continue lobbying and motivating various stakeholders for their participation in conservation efforts, and more specifically those that are directly related with water management.

- SPP has to play a multiple role in this phase. It should at the same time be guiding and assessing the GEF project and, as a member of the Prespa Park Coordination Committee, acting as the Steering Committee of the project, i.e.: collaborating with the Transboundary International Advisor of the project, responsible for the institutional and on-the-ground transboundary components, as a member and driving force of the Prespa Park Secretariat; participating and influencing the outcomes of various other project components, in which it is viewed as a main partner (e.g. land-use planning, environmental monitoring, pilot conservation activities, etc); and at the same time keep the trilateral cooperation going irrespective of or in addition to the GEF project so that the Prespa Park initiative does not identify itself with or share the fate of a single project - as large as it may be - and does not conclude its course when the latter is over. This complex role SPP is expected to and should play requires a lot of attention, time and priority setting by the Prespa Park staff and its managing director, and possibly external assistance by its member organisations and their networks.

- In the context of the GEF project, but also independently, SPP, in collaboration with WWF Greece, will give special emphasis on promoting the implementation of the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC, in the transboundary Prespa catchment basin.

- Moreover, SPP has worked for the last 2 years on identifying these local NGOs and groups or individuals in Albania and FYR of Macedonia, which could contribute towards the Prespa Park objectives, and on planning appropriate capacity building actions.

Objective IV: Development of SPP’s fundraising capacity

- Recruitment of a fundraising officer.

- Elaboration and development of the fundraising programme, proposed and discussed at the General Assembly (GA) meeting on 15-16 May 2005.

- Preparation and organization of measures (photos, information material, publications) that will be used for the fundraising activities.

- Development of close communication with all GA members in order to facilitate the fundraising strategy.

- Increased support - direct financial support or through their fundraising capacity - from GA members.

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