Transboundary collaboration for the Prespa Lakes

04/06/2003

6th regular meeting of the Coordination Committee

The Coordination Committee of the Prespa Park (PPCC) held its sixth regular meeting in the city of Korçe in southwestern Albania on 31 May and 1 June 2004. Since February 2000, when the prime ministers of Albania, Greece and the FYR of Macedonia declared the first transboundary protected area in the Balkans, considerable progress has been made in building trust and joint institutions among government, local authorities and civic society in the three countries involved and in launching common activities.

The meeting in Korçe was highlighted by two important events. The first was the final endorsement by the Coordination Committee of the Strategic Action Plan (SAP) for the entire hydrological basin of the lakes, which was prepared by scientists from the three countries, and was complemented by an extensive consultation process. The SAP includes a common vision for the area and will serve as a basis for all future efforts for conservation and the sustainable use of resources. The second was the launching of a GEF project development initiative (PDF B), co-funded mainly by GEF (through UNDP) and by the German public sector bank, KfW. Already an international project manager has been appointed, local offices have been established and the selection of consultants is expected by mid-July. The main aim of this action, to be completed by February 2005, is the preparation of a proposal for a large (USD 15 million) GEF project for the Prespa area. The PPCC plays the role of Steering Committee for this project and extensive discussions were held on how it would play this role effectively.

Other significant matters discussed included the delicate hydrological situation in the two lakes, with water levels falling and demand for water abstraction for irrigation increasing. It was agreed that no country will take any action before a joint hydro-geological study is prepared and its proposals have been accepted by the Coordination Committee. The cooperation among the Prespa municipalities and other public institutions (such as fire departments) is increasing in a very positive climate. A number of projects in execution were reported that will improve the sanitation systems in the cities and settlements surrounding the lakes, which will contribute to curbing water pollution.

Finally, the operational plan and budget of the PPCC for 2004-2005, including significant communication activities, was approved.

Ramsar / MedWet are a permanent member of the PPCC (with an observer status) and participate significantly in its work, acting as a catalyser among the three countries. In the Korçe meeting it was represented by Thymio Papayannis, the MedWet Senior Advisor.

Greater Lake Prespa, World Wetlands Day 2000 (Photo: Delmar Blasco/Ramsar)

-- reported by Senior Advisor Thymio Papayannis.

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