How can Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, as the riparian countries of the Drina river basin, create new opportunities to attract more investments in integrated projects and support sustainable development of water and energy resources? How can potential trade-offs be limited in favor of harnessing opportunities for cross-sectoral and cross-boundary cooperation?
These questions were addressed at a high-level workshop organized in Belgrade this week by the UNECE and supported by the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea.
The UNECE workshop provided the authorities in charge of different natural resource management sectors and environmental protection and representatives of power utilities, civil society organizations and financial institutions with a platform for dialogue on how to foster transboundary cooperation across sectors, improve monitoring and knowledge about factors affecting water quality and erosion, achieve a more balanced flow regulation, including environmental flows, and promote investment into sustainable renewable energy.
Ivan Karić: We share not only the beauty of the Drina, but also responsibility
“The Drina is one of our most beautiful rivers, and citizens of Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are privileged to live by it. However, we also share the responsibility for managing the Drina, and we need to jointly ensure its sustainable future.” – State Secretary at the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the Republic of Serbia Ivan Karić.
The discussion was conducted around two key questions that are decisive for the future of the water-energy-environment nexus in the Drina river basin:
- How to better balance development, considering energy generation, land management and water use, and sustainability, including the environment, in the basin?
- What is necessary to achieve investments that provide benefits for multiple sectors and that, as such, can be considered “nexus investment”?
Recommendations for the sustainability of Drina River Basin
Representatives of three riparian countries of the Drina river basin also discussed the recommendations of the Drina River Basin Nexus follow-up project (conducted in 2018-2019 under the Water Convention the project is a follow-up of Greening economic development in Western Balkans trough applying a nexus approach and identification of benefits of transboundary cooperation project), implemented by the UNECE, with the aim to ensure a sustainable future for the Drina river, the economies of the three countries, as well as people living by the Drina.
Among the project’s key recommendations are those related to improving information exchange in order to achieve a sustainable management of the Drina river. In particular, this project underlines the need for an improved monitoring of water quality, incorporating hydrobiological quality elements and hydromorphology, while requiring better harmonization for shared water bodies. Such information will make it possible to more effectively design measures, including to address pollution, and limit environmental impacts from future development.
Investment in anti-erosion and torrent control is estimated at EUR 113 million
Marina Babić Mladenović, executive director at Jaroslav Černi Water Institute, presented the results of a scoping study on erosion and sedimentation in the Drina River Basin (DRB). The study proposes four key measures: to develop and update erosion maps to guide actions, to apply and monitor appropriate erosion control measures, to raise awareness, promote and exchange good practice, and to establish a sediment monitoring system in DRB.
The necessary investment in anti-erosion and torrent control works and measures in DRB is estimated at EUR 113 million, she said.
Country-specific recommendations to promote investment in renewable energy
Regarding energy, the project called for efforts towards defining and agreeing a more optimal flow regulation, while accounting for environmental needs and other water uses, in addition to hydropower generation. Without a basin-wide approach to managing the Drina River, which is continuously transforming by erosion and sedimentation, the efficiency of investment into flood protection and hydropower generation is put in question.
Salvatore d’Angelo: Italy supports tools that assure regional security
“Integrated water management approach for the Drina river would assure regional security, stability and sustainable development, and Italy supports available tools that help address the issues, such as the Water Convention.” – Salvatore d’Angelo of the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea.
The project makes country-specific recommendations based on multi-stakeholder dialogue to promote investment into sustainable renewable energy, including wind and solar, and to capitalize on the still underdeveloped intersectoral opportunities, such as harnessing wastewater as a resource.
Republika Srpska’s intention is to provide broader social benefits from the construction of HPPs
Željko Ratković, head of investment at power utility Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske (ERS), says the company has invested a lot of money in exploring the Drina’s hydropower potential. The construction of three hydropower plants (HPPs) – Buk Bijela, Foča, and Paunci – on the Upper Drina is ready to go, while technical documentation has been drafted for HPPs in the middle course of the river. In the lower course of the Drina river, there are frequent floods, which caused EUR 180 million in damage in the 2010-2014 period.
That is why the intention of Republika Srpska is to provide broader social benefits from the construction of HPPs in order to secure not only power generation but also flood defense and irrigation, he said.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia, Françoise Jacob, and the Director of the Office of UNECE’s Executive Secretary, Kire Ilioski, welcomed the participants, highlighting the role of this project as an “accelerator” to tackle transboundary issues in the Drina river basin, promote investments, and facilitate an integrated approach in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Mr. Ilioski said that “with regional and transboundary cooperation, and intersectoral coordination, more can be done, and some trade-offs between development and the environment can clearly be overcome to the mutual benefit”.