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A Wetland of International Importance

The Prespa Lakes basin encompasses the Macro and Micro Prespa lakes and the basin in the three littoral States of Albania, FYR of Macedonia and Greece. The ecosystems within the Prespa lakes basin are of global significance and harbour endemic floral and faunal species. Despite the contribution of a range of services to human well being, these ecosystems are facing numerous challenges, stemming for the existing practices in many areas that directly or indirectly affect the lakes.  Current resource management practices including water and land-use planning, agriculture, forestry and fisheries are failing to maintain and restore the health of ecosystems within the transboundary Prespa Lakes Basin. Productive sectors are failing to incorporate ecosystem health objectives into their daily management practices and protected areas are under threat and can barely serve as biodiversity refuges. Knowledge, experiential, and incentive barriers hamper people’s ability to know of, understand, and adopt new practices. Out-dated, inappropriately scaled land and water use practices hamper the stakeholders from finding effective and practical solutions. Up to date information on key species and habitats are patchy and even modest monitoring of key ecosystem health parameters is not done. As a result, key habitats are being lost or degraded, globally significant species are threatened, and stakeholders are ill prepared to manage a dynamic, ever-changing aquatic ecosystem like the Prespa lakes.

 Project Interventions

In the light of the current situation, the Prespa Regional Project ‘Integrated Ecosystem Management in the Prespa Lakes Basin of Albania, 

FYR of Macedonia and Greece (2006-2011)’ seeks to catalyse the adoption of integrated ecosystem management in the transboundary Prespa Lakes basin to conserve globally significant biodiversity, mitigate pollution of the transboundary lakes, and provide a sustainable basis for the basin’s further social and economic development through a range of approaches.  

This project aims at strengthening the conservation of significant biological diversity and water quality through improved monitoring, targeted research and enabling protected areas to serve as effective refuges for biodiversity within the Prespa landscape. The project will also contribute to developing appropriately scaled land and water use planning and management, monitoring and targeted research and replication of small-scale wastewater treatment techniques.

One of the main objectives of the project is to instigate establishment of land and water use management basis for maintaining and restoring ecosystem health in the Prespa lakes basin. To achieve this objective the project will support the development of spatial plans in the FYR of Macedonia and local environmental plans in Albania through incorporation of principles of the ecosystem approach.

The project will influence stakeholders to modify their current resource management practices. This will lead to reduction of pesticide inputs, increase in habitat heterogeneity, and improved status of target species and ecosystems. Novel and ecosystem friendly approaches are being introduced in the productive sectors and forest management. Small scale wastewater treatment plants that will reduce the euthrophication of the lake are also being established.

One of the main outcomes of the project is establishment and strengthening of the protected areas in the Prespa lakes basin. The Prespa Regional Project interventions will include the establishment and effective management of the of the Ezerani Strict Nature Reserve in the FYR of Macedonia, operationalization of the Prespa Protected Area in Greece and the conservation significant territory of habitats for species that inhabit the Prespa lakes basin.

In the long run, a healthy Prespa Basin ecosystem must be maintained through transboundary consensus and effective transboundary action.   At the same time, effective transboundary action is only as good as the ability of each littoral State to effect change within their respective national sectors of the Prespa Lakes basin: to change how agriculture, forests, water, fisheries, and wastewater are managed. Therefore, this project focuses first on strengthening the capacity of Albania and FYR of Macedonia to manage their key sectors on a more sustainable basis

As the Prespa lakes basin is shared amongst three countries at different levels of development and political conditions, joint management approaches and mechanisms are required to ensure wise use of the resources within the basin and sustainable development. Thus, the project will significantly contribute to the transboundary cooperation amongst the littoral States and strengthen the functioning of the responsible entities. Therefore, the project will contribute to strengthening intergovernmental cooperation through supporting the institutional maturation of the existing multi-stakeholder tri-lateral Prespa Park Coordination Committee (PPCC) and explore options for formalising tri-lateral cooperation. 

A very significant dimension that the project aims at introducing is the education and increasing the public awareness on issues related to ecosystem services, and impact of selected human activity on the ecosystem health. This is instrumental in achieving meaningful and sustainable change in the way people view and impact the various ecosystems within the Prespa basin. Thus through strategically designed and targeted educational approaches the project will teach people the values of the ecosystems, and also bring the attention on specific issues.

Given the complexity of the tasks that the Prespa Regional Project will address, it adopts complex and participatory approaches to finding solutions. The greatest asset of the project is the involvement of various stakeholders on national, local and transboundary level at every step of the implementation. This started with the preparation phase where stakeholders contributed to the development of the interventions and will continue to actively contribute in the implementation phase. 

The UNDP GEF project encourages dialogue on all levels amongst the stakeholders through information exchange, capacity building and adopting a consensus driven process to jointly address issues and find solutions to the ecosystem management problems. 

This project considers the conservation of national and global benefits in the Prespa Lakes Region to be a long-term, multi-phase process. The UNDP GEF project will strengthen the foundation for national and transboundary ecosystem management in the Prespa region, remove barriers to adopting ecosystem management, and pilot new practices and partnerships. 

Project Management

Financed primarily by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the project is jointly managed by UNDP country offices in FYR of Macedonia and Albania in partnership with the Ministries of Environment in both countries. There are four national offices, two in FYR of Macedonia (Resen and Skopje) and two in Albania (Korce and Tirana) and one transboundary office located in FYR of Macedonia (Resen). Greece, being an EU member State is not eligible for GEF funds but participates actively through parallel financing.  

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