Ecosystem Management with Public Participation for Conservation of Rivers of the Baltic Sea Catchment Area

On March 22, 2017, St. Petersburg was hosting participants of the XVIII International Environmental Forum “Baltic Sea Day.” Within the Forum, which had turned into an important event in the life of St. Petersburg and the entire Baltic Sea area, the Clean Baltic Coalition and environmental public organization “Friends of the Baltic” had organized a Round Table on the “Ecosystem Approach in the Complex River Basin Management: Public’s Role and Engagement.”

Moderators of the Round Table Marina Kazmina, Deputy Director, Water Basin Directorate, Federal Agency of Water Resources, Mikhail Durkin, Executive Director, Coalition Clean Baltic and Edward Podgaisky, expert of the Coalition Clean Baltic, pointed out the high interest of the participants in the selected topic: the Round Table brought together 47 participants among whom were representatives from Russia, Belarus, Finland, and Sweden along with a number of international organizations.

The goal of the Round Table was to exchange experiences and elaborate on joint approaches to the development of the ecosystem basin management in river catchment areas at the account of strengthening general public and local communities’ participation and support from both local and regional authorities and government environmental authorities. An important pre-condition for this is accessibility of research data on the environment and water resources status, access to expert examinations and willingness of all parties and organizations to share information and best practices.

Mikhail Durkin and Eduard Podgaisky started the Round Table with introduction of the Barents-Baltic “Nature and Man” Program within the frames of which this discussion was initiated.

Marina Kazmina presented the key principles of water resource management in Russia as a whole. According to the RF Water Code requirements, regulation of water relations takes place within water catch districts (catchment-based approach).

Marina Kazmina spoke in details about an important instrument of water management: diagrams of complex exploitation and protection of water bodies, so-called SKIOVO. Presently, 8 schemes of the kind have been developed for the Baltic Sea basin. The schemes have been developed for the period up until 2025 for planning and realization of water management and water protecting events; for setting exploitation rates of water sites; registering amounts of water withdrawals and discharges of sewage waters. Besides the diagrams, equally important mechanism for water resource management is institution of norms of acceptable impact on water bodies (NAIs), which are established for keeping the surface and ground waters in the state corresponding to legislative requirements.

Vladimir Korneyev, Head of the Department of Water Monitoring and Cadaster of the Central R&D Institute of Water Resource Complex Exploitation, talked about functioning of River Catch Management Plans (RCMPs) in Belarus where they are the basis of river catchment area management. Besides this, in the Republic of Belarus, they had developed schemes of water resources complex utilization (WRCUs) for the catchment areas of the Neman River (2009-2010) and Zapadnaya Dvina River (2011-2012). In his presentation, the speaker raised the issue of climate changes and their relations with water resources; he presented the experience of the Republic of Belarus in the sphere of water management in the transboundary water catches of the Neman River and Zapadnaya Dvina River with consideration of the climate changes. You can read more about this project here.

The issue of climate change in the Republic of Belarus is one of the state-level priority spheres of research. Among other things, this is important because of the Belarus Republic’s joining the international climate agreements and compliance with their obligations. Taking into account the transboundary character of all major rivers in Belarus, it is necessary to solve problems connected with climate impact on water resources in cooperation with other states located in the water catchment areas of these rivers.

For the water catch area of the Neman River, a forecast of future impact of climate changes on the water quality and a strategic plan for adaptation to climate changes had been developed, along with diagrams of climate change vulnerabilities for various industries.

Sergey Kondratiev, Deputy Director on research, FPFISR&D Limnology Institute, RAS, presented a report on the identification possibility of individual quotas for reduction of nutrient loading for implementation of the HELCOM Action Plan for the Baltic Sea. In the opinion of the scholar, the goals set by the Helsinki Commission are quite realistic.

Pauli Haimi, Certified Engineer of the Regional Center for Economic Development, Transport and Environment of South-East Finland, presented the actual issues of cooperation in the transboundary water bodies of Russia and Finland. The 1964 Russia-Finland Agreement on transboundary water bodies was the first and exemplary for all following ones. Presently, cooperation between Russia and Finland is actively developing around the Vuoksa, Hiitola, Malinovka/Chyornaya, Seleznyovka, Polevaya, Velikaya, Peschanaya, and Serga Rivers. Pauli Haimi sees the opportunities for citizens’ participation first of all in the sphere of restoration of spawning grounds and water reservoir clearing. In Finland, they spend a lot of effort on creating spawning grounds and preparation of water ways for the fish; however, there can be no results without Russia’s participation in this process. If the water ways had been cleared on the Finnish side, while on the Russian side they are blocked with barred pipes packed with garbage, fishes cannot get through and the results of work would be annulled. Pauli pointed out the extreme importance of joint efforts.

Chair of the “Chudskoy Project” PRPO Olga Vasilenko told the audience about her experience of participating in transboundary projects between Estonia and Russia and about the practices of engaging NGOs and general public in solving problems in the Pskov-Chudskoye Lake region: this transboundary water body is the fourth biggest by its territory and the fifth biggest by its volume lake in Europe.

Olga Vasilenko pointed out the strengths of “the third sector” that allow it not only to look at the situation from the outside, but also to help in solving problems:

• NGOs are a channel for realization of the potential of civil initiative; their activities serve as a source of alternative, independent approaches for solving public problems;
• NGOs have direct information on the on-going public processes, capacities for operational development and implementation of economical ways for solving problems;
• NGOs are least dependent on administrative borders;
• NGOs have a lot fewer restrictions in choosing forms and spheres for their activities;
• Organizational authority is concentrated in the hands of a small circle of people and processes of organizational dynamics go much faster.

This way, NGOs, as compared to other sectors, i.e., authority and businesses are less formalized and more mobile, and this allows them to distribute their resources for solving various issues in a more efficient way.

All Round Table participants pointed out that reduction of anthropogenic pollution of water systems remains the essential for the region goal regarding the state of water bodies in the Baltic Sea area (including its Russian part). This means a set of measures on the reduction of biogenic loading with consideration of the climate change forecast including events for protection against flooding and minor flooding based on the study of biogenic sources and climate adaptation strategy.

The future-oriented actions in Baltic countries and several Russian regions are development of the system of sewage waters treatment, reduction of the negative impact of such nutrients as agriculture including animal husbandry, untreated sewage and other diffused sources; identification of flooding and minor flooding zones in RF Subjects, and study of the strategies and best practices of climatic adaptation. All of it should be strengthened with consideration of the best technologies, practices and participation of all interested parties, local activists and municipalities, public organizations, initiative groups, and other public associations.

You can see here the Round Table Resolution.

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