An update on the Society for the Protection of Prespa
In May 1999, the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) in northwestern Greece was awarded one of the first Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards. The next year, closely assisted by the MedWet Initiative, it played a key role in the agreement of the governments of Albania, Greece and the FYR of Macedonia for the establishment of a transboundary park in the area, which was announced on World Wetlands Day 2000. Two years later, the Coordination Committee of the Prespa Park met in Oteshevo, in the FYR of Macedonia, to celebrate WWD2002 and its first year of operation with an exhibition of school posters from all three countries.
The SPP remains a member of the Coordination Committee of the Prespa Park, ensures its Secretariat (which has its seat at the Society's headquarters in Aghios Germanos village), with the assistance of Albanian and Macedonian NGOs. Already, a strategic action plan for the entire Park has been prepared, a hydrological study for the whole catchment of the lakes is on the way and a large GEF project, with strong support from the German and the Greek governments is in a development phase, while smaller activities have been launched.
The General Assembly of the SPP met on 9 March 2002 in Aghios Germanos to assess its current programme. Chaired by Dr. Luc Hoffmann, the General Assembly includes representatives of its ten members (seven Greek NGOs, the Danish Ornithological Society, the RSPB, and Tour du Valat). Besides the crucial contribution of SPP to the work of the Prespa Park, perhaps the most significant development was the agreement reached with the local inhabitants on the level of Mikri Prespa, on which the extent of wet meadows depends. In fact, it has just been announced that a LIFE project for the wet meadows of Prespa - submitted by the SPP - had been approved. The project includes among other measures the construction of a hydraulic sluice to control the level of the smaller lake, critical for both fish reproduction and bird nesting. The herd of buffalos re-introduced to Prespa by SPP to manage the reed beds has increased to 15, and the impact of their grazing has proven highly beneficial. In addition, the educational activities of the Society are progressing well, while a traditional building has been purchased and will be restored to host a meeting room for 100 persons and staff accommodations.
At the end of the meeting, Thymio Papayannis, former MedWet Coordinator, was elected vice president of SPP.