National and regional story (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) - Lake Ohrid: Transboundary management experience and sustainability
The first-ever experience of transboundary water management in Southeastern Europe – the Lake Ohrid Conservation Project (LOCP) – was strongly supported by the international community and made a number of changes for the people in the watershed on both sides of the border. Using environmental protection as a vehicle, LOCP has made a strong contribution to boundary softening, not only in terms of administrative boundaries but also boundaries in people’s minds. The flow of people and goods has increased dramatically, fostering economic and social integration. Moreover, the environment was the best way to promote political relations at state and local levels.
LOCP was recognised in the May 2003 Conference hosted by Greece, during its Presidency of the European Union, and the World Bank as a successful model of bilateral management of transboundary resources. In its Athens Declaration, the Conference recommended that future programmes in Southeastern Europe use the lessons learned in the LOCP to guide projects, especially noting how joint activities at the local level can significantly strengthen collaboration between two countries. The Declaration also noted that the countries of the region should be assisted in developing integrated water resource management and water-use efficiency plans for major river basins.
In June 2004, the Prime Ministers of Albania and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia signed the Agreement for the Protection and Sustainable Development of Lake Ohrid and its Watershed. This Agreement, ratified by the parliaments of both countries in 2005, established a bilateral Lake Ohrid Watershed Committee, and included the Prespa Park Coordinating Committee and other subcommittees as joint Bodies under its overall structure. The body to coordinate the work of the Lake Ohrid Watershed Committee is the Secretariat. The Committee has the status of an intergovernmental body, with explicit authority to develop relationships with donors to implement the Agreement. The Agreement obliges the countries to take the necessary measures, individually and in cooperation, to
(a) prevent, control and reduce pollution of the waters in the watershed;
(b) protect the soil from erosion, depletion, infections and pollution;
(c) protect the biodiversity by protecting the endemic, rare, threatened or endangered species of flora and fauna;
(d) prevent the introduction and breeding non-autocthonous animal and plant species;
(e) ensure the sustainable use of natural resources of the watershed;
(f) avoid any serious damage to the cultural values and natural landscapes; and
(g) prevent and control the economic activities which cause or may cause negative impacts in the Lake Ohrid watershed.
The project assumes preparation and implementation of policy and programmes according to EU and NATO standards, environmental monitoring, assessment and the issuing permits for interventions, spatial planning, sustainable development of natural recourses and protection of nature. However, increased environmental investment from foreign sources is necessary to solve most important problems. Such investments, combined with strengthened administrative capacities in natural resource management, will ensure a real platform for efficient environmental protection in parallel with sustainable economic and social development in the region.