Water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus and benefits of cooperation in the Western Balkans

May 22, 2017

Water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus and benefits of cooperation in the Western Balkans

 

  • Project: Greening economic development in Western Balkans trough applying a nexus approach and identification of benefits of transboundary cooperation
  • Funded by: Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea
  • Countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia
  • Lead executing agency: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
  • Overall term: 2016-2017

CONTEXT 

Development plans in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, the countries that share the Drina Basin,  in particular some 20 new hydropower plants planned, can impact on the ecosystems but also across sectors, in particular energy, agriculture and water management. Environmental- and climate change-related commitments of the countries as well as the modified economic outlook should also be taken into consideration when discussing these plans.

OBJECTIVE

The project supported a participatory intersectoral assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in the Drina River Basin, carried out in the framework of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention). The assessment also promoted a broad understanding of the benefits of transboundary water cooperation.

The project particularly aimed to:

  • Identify intersectoral issues and trade-offs between sectors and possible solutions to be further explored and utilized;
  • Determine possible solutions, policy measures and mutually beneficial actions that could avoid unintended consequences of resource management between sectors and reduce tensions between sectoral objectives;
  • Enhance cooperation between countries in the basin in managing transboundary waters.

RESULTS

The resource use and management situation was jointly characterized, the most pressing intersectoral problems together with some possible scenarios of future development identified. Among the main issues identified were flow regulation (driven by hydropower generation), challenges  of rural development and modernising agriculture as well as shortcomings in managing wastewater and solid waste.

The project identified a number of intersectoral and transboundary cooperation opportunities for mutual benefits and for reducing pressures on water resources and the environment. Recommendations for improvements (solutions) were made, including to guide investment, and these range from combining the promotion of local, high-quality agricultural products with nature-related tourism to updating the feasibility studies of new hydropower infrastructure and evaluating the impact of the new projects on the basin. The participatory process, involving three basin level meetings, increased awareness in the national administrations about intersectoral impacts and synergies.