Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Greece and Northern Macedonia have approved a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) for sustainable management of the shared Drin River Basin, an important source for fishing, electricity, agriculture, tourism and drinking water in the countries. The project sets out more than 100 agreed actions to enable sustainable water management in the basin, benefiting 1.6 million inhabitants.
The SAP, approved in a “virtually signed” 24 April statement by Ministers and representatives, aims to address four particular cross-border issues among the Riparian nations - water pollution, biodiversity degradation and ecosystems, water flow and sediment disturbances.
Gerta Lubonja, General Director of Agency for Water Resources Management of Albania, where the Drin is the country’s longest river, welcomed the SAP approval, saying “At a time the world is locked down to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, it has never been more important to protect our water resources. In these unprecedented times, water is an indispensable weapon in fighting the disease, acting as a barrier to the virus and maintaining a decent standard of living for the millions of people who are confined to their homes. Because we have been working for more than 10 years now, with the conviction that we are managing an extraordinary shared resource, we will manage to remain focused in the implementation of Drini SAP and, despite everything, optimistic in these particularly difficult times”.
The development of the SAP has been supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Drin Project, which was designed to realise a 2011 Memorandum of Understanding for the sustainable management of the basin. The Drin Project is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and executed by the Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med), with the United Nations Economic Commission (UNECE) as a partner in this process.
The plan was developed during the last year through an extensive consultation with over 200 stakeholders, including relevant Ministry representatives and technical experts, and will provide the main reference point to inform the coordinated management of the Drin Basin for years to come. The priority for the Riparians now is to identify sources of funding to implement the SAP, to ensure the sustainable management of the Drin Basin can be realised.
Drin Project Partner Statements:
Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programmes, Global Environment Facility: “The signing of the Strategic Action Programme for the extended Drin River basin marks an important step towards greater cooperation across borders and within the shared environmental resources that is embodied in a healthy, resilient Drin river ecosystem. It is heartening to witness the strong cooperation between economic sectors, political leaders, and those living in the basin across multiple countries, captured in the Strategic Action Programme. Shared river basins across the world stand to learn a lot from the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that the Drin River Basin is showcasing today”.
Monika Weber-Fahr, Executive Secretary, Global Water Partnership: “In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the five Drin Riparians are sending a strong message that improved and integrated water resources management will continue to be vigorously pursued, yielding benefits for livelihoods, economic growth and jobs, environment, health, and more. Servicing the Drin collaboration process for nearly a decade, GWP and GWP-Med can only feel proud of this achievement; we are thankful to our partners, the GEF, UNDP and UNECE, for their continuous support and joint action that has produced tangible results to the benefit of the Drin Riparians”.
Marco Keiner, Director of Environment Division, UNECE: “Transboundary cooperation in the Extended Drin River Basin has reached major milestones and brought important benefits, contributing to the implementation of the UNECE Water Convention by the Riparians. This cooperation importantly also supports the achievement of SDGs notably SDG target 6.5 on integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation”.
Limya Eltayeb, UNDP Resident Representative in Albania: “The endorsement of the Strategic Action Program - following a decade of work after the signing of the transboundary Memorandum of Understanding in Tirana in 2011, is an important step forward in setting out priority issues in the Drin Basin and how they can be addressed. This strategic document represents a shared vision at the benefit of 1, 6 million inhabitants and for sustainable development”.