I have been involved in water resource planning for more than twenty years; initially working with the National Rivers Authority of England and Wales developing their first two water resource strategies and later working with the regional water companies developing detailed response plans.
My first experience of working in the CIS was in the Ukraine in 1995 on a small Tacis project to develop a River Basin Management plan for the River Teteriv; Kiev was a very different place then. Since then I have managed water resource and environmental projects and programmes in Russia, the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, the Kura-Aras basin, the Artic and Central Asia. Many of these projects have been implemented with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and I have been closely involved in the development of the assessment methodologies of the organisation’s International Waters portfolio. A recent project for which I was team leader was the EU Water Governance Project in Central Asia, based in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan whose objective was introduction and implementation of the IWRM concept into the CA countries and trialling of the WFD WQ management systems.
I have two first degrees one in Civil and Structural Engineering and one in Zoology. This combination has led to my involvement in not only water resource but also environment protection projects around the world. The inter-disciplinary nature of my work is very challenging and rewarding. Assisting in construction and operation of effective regulatory and management frameworks for natural resources may not sound exciting, but I assure it is. It is hard work and you have to be committed, but if you succeed in moving forward, even by one small step, then at the end of the day your spirits are lifted. The environmental sector is populated by some of the most hard-working, dedicated professionals I know and who it is a pleasure to work with. I know whatever the problem, whatever challenge there will be help at hand to overcome it.
The current project is a continuation of the work undertaken by EU in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea basins on the implementation of Integrated Water Resource Management and specifically the Water Framework Directive. After five years of project intervention the participant countries are fully engaged and enthusiastic in implementation of the WFD, however, they are also conscious of the costs involved and need to plan carefully a staged progression. In development of the pilot River Basin Management Plans, this project will help the countries design that implementation programme and gradually improve the quality of their waters. These RBMPs will also I hope attract funding to the countries from multi-lateral and bilateral donors and give the process impetus and raise the issue of the environment up the local and national political agendas.
The title of the project is Environmental Protection of International River Basins and cooperation between the countries to tackle common and shared problems is central to the project’s objectives. In assessing and addressing the problems, whether they be water quality, water resource or nature conservation issues, it is important that the countries, as much as possible, work in a coherent and consistent manner, with common objectives and priorities. The Water Framework Directive at the river basin level and the newly developed Marine Directive provide that common regulatory framework; strengthened by the existing Bucharest Convention for Protection of the Black Sea from Pollution and its Protocols. The pilot River Basin Management Plans prepared under this project are jig-saw pieces in a much larger regulatory framework picture for the Black Sea basin.
The project is already in consultation with its sister protect Improving Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea (EMBLAS) implemented by UNDP to see how the projects may collaborate. The project will also take every opportunity to liaise and coordinate with international and national water projects and programmes in the Black Sea basin; an important task of the project’s National Water Management Experts.
The management of the water sector historically has been highly fragmented and fractured in CIS countries and institutional structures have been difficult to reform. No matter what legislative and regulatory frameworks the countries adopt, unless the various institutions can work together and there are clear communication mechanisms then implementation is going to be slow and at best partial.
The concept of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) is lofty target, perhaps a Nirvana concept, which has to be can never fully be reached, but it something which we have to strive for, but noting the costs. At the heart of any IWRM programme is institutional reform. Water professionals need to work together and build understanding and trust. The construction of the River Basin Management Plans is a very good exercise in building of this understanding and trust. Although the WFD RBMPs are in essence implementation plans for the WFD they should also address the wider water sector in an integrated fashion. This means that all stakeholders, government and non-government, need to be involved and participate in the exercise. This is going to be a great challenge, especially in those pilot basins which are trans-boundary.
Under its regional activities the project will support implementation of both the UNECE Water Convention and Danube Convention. It will look to strengthen the countries commitment to these Conventions by practical assistance in their implementation at the country level. The countries and Convention Secretariats have already been consulted on how best the project can help and terms of reference at this moment are being developed for the next twelve months.
The key project deliverables will be the RBMPs developed in line with the Water Framework Directive. These RBMPs should not be seen as products of the project, but rather products of the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries should own these documents and it is the task of the project to assist the beneficiaries in their development. The plans are not meant to be pretty documents which decorate the book-shelves but planning and implementation tools which galvanise investment and ultimately lead to improved water quality and environment. This is will be our aim over the next two years.