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River flow regulation, sedimentation and renewable energy investment the core of a new project in the Drina River Basin in the Western Balkans

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia have agreed to jointly investigate options for formalizing river flow regulation, occurrence of erosion and sedimentation, as well as ways to promote investment into renewable energy in the framework of a new project funded by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea and implemented by UNECE.

The project’s work plan was confirmed in Sarajevo on 26 June 2018 with the participation of authorities representing different natural resource management sectors, environmental protection, and electricity providers. In his opening statement of the launch workshop in Sarajevo, Mr. Salvatore D’Angelo from the Ministry underlined as key to the new project the strategic role of water resources management in ensuring water security, energy services, agriculture and environmental services.

The actions envisaged respond directly to the conclusions of the report “Assessment of the Water-Food-Energy-Ecosystems Nexus and benefits of transboundary cooperation in the Drina River Basin”. The “nexus” report, prepared by UNECE, was published in 2017 and laid out a broad range of opportunities and concrete benefits of transboundary cooperation across sectors, but also of improved intersectoral coordination nationally. The participatory assessment and process sought to provide greener economic development solutions for the border region which faces challenges of depopulation, a lack of infrastructure and limited economic opportunities. More sustainable management of shared resources can provide benefits through reducing pollution, developing renewable energy, as well as promoting eco-tourism and sustainable agriculture.

The views expressed at the workshop by the authorities and key stakeholders helped to shape and detail the package of activities proposed in the framework of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention). The activities to be carried out 2018-2019 include providing guidance and outlining procedures for harmonized monitoring and bilateral information exchange.  This is to reinforce monitoring water quality in particular where neither availability of data nor sharing it between the countries and institutions is at an adequate level for effective policy support.  

Regarding specific issues, sedimentation can be mentioned as an example, which negatively affects various economic activities in the Drina Basin, including hydropower generation, but also activities further downstream such as navigation. The new project is to undertake a study to locate the main zones of erosion and sources of sediment to provide a stronger information basis for determining management responses. Furthermore, identification and elaboration of legal options from good international practice can inform balancing better hydropower generation and other needs, notably flood protection and ecosystem needs. 

Cooperation with the UNECE Group of Experts on Renewable Energy in the project will support the creation of a suitable environment for promoting renewable energy investments in the region. Concretely, a series of multi-stakeholder Renewable Energy Hard Talk events are expected to be organized in the three Drina Basin countries in cooperation with national and international actors to identify main barriers and recommend ways to facilitate private sector’s investment in sustainable energy and increase the uptake of renewable energy.

The need to transform the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into concrete activities and the value of an intersectoral approach in that context was also discussed at the event. The representative of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the host, underlined the importance of a coordinated approach at the international level and within countries to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. The new project is designed to contribute to a more sustainable and coordinated development of the basin’s shared resources. 

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