Sava Commission a model of sub-basin cooperation

The Sava Commission officially opened to exchange information, and to eliminate or reduce trans-boundary impacts on the Sava River Basin, which holds the largest volume of water for a sub-basin in the Danube region.

Credit: Schneider-Jacoby/Euronatur
The Sava runs 946 km from west to east beginning in Slovenia and ending at its confluence with the Danube in Belgrade. The Sava Basin holds the largest volume of water for a sub-basin in the Danube Basin, contributing about 25% of its total discharge and covering 96,400 sq km or 15% of the Danube Basin.

On July 5, the Office of the International Sava River Basin Commission was officially opened in Zagreb, Croatia. The new commission is mandated with implementing the 'Framework Agreement for the Sava River Basin' (FASRB) on behalf of the Sava Basin States including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovenia. The FASRB was the first regional agreement since the Dayton Peace Agreement ended the war in the former Yugoslavia in 1996.

Setting standards for cooperation.
"I am very optimistic regarding the future work of the Sava Commission and its results in accomplishing agreement goals," said Commission Chairman Kemal Karkin."This is not going to be easy because, unlike other river basins, this basin has to pass through a recovery phase due to the effects of the war. However, since all parties of the Agreement expect implementation of initial goals and benefits in the near future, we will try to implement both the recovery phase and development phase at the same time and in all areas of transboundary cooperation treated by the agreement. For this purpose I expect technical and financial support from donors and international financial institutions, as well as fruitful cooperation with other international organizations, especially with the ICPDR and Danube Commission."

Improving waterways together.
One of the Commission's main tasks will be the development of a 'Pragmatic Sava River Basin Management Plan' in line with the EU Water Framework Directive. Supported by the UNDP/GEF Danube Regional Project, the process will include an analysis of the major transboundary issues related to water quality control and water management in the basin, and a programme of measures to deal with them including new policies, laws and investments by international and bilateral donors.

Under the FASRB, the Sava Basin states agreed to cooperate in the integrated management of surface and ground water resources, including having a sufficient quantity and quality of water to protect, preserve and improve aquatic systems, and protect against the harmful effects from water. Considerable emphasis in the agreement relates to parties maintaining and improving navigation, and for the Commission to provide financing for the construction of new, navigable waterways.


Filling local needs.
The OSCE has been significantly involved in providing political and technical support in the lead-up to the Sava Commission. It is now helping to develop a network of local actors in the Sava Basin including local authorities, water suppliers and NGOs. "There is no mechanism to link local input with the Commission", says the OSCE’s Raul Daussa. "The new network will inform the Commission of the real needs and concerns of the end users of water - for example, if a municipality requires a new pumping facility, the Commission will know about it."

Paul Csagoly
is a communications consultant with the UNDP/GEF Danube Regional Project
through which he assists by writing stories about people and nature in the Danube River Basin.