Tisza River Basin Management: successful cooperation from the ground up


Tisza River Basin Management: successful cooperation from the ground up

With the new sub-basin management plan for the Tisza, the Tisza Group and the countries of the Tisza River Basin have achieved significant progress and an outstanding example of cooperation.

The Tisza River Basin is the largest sub-basin in the Danube River Basin, and the Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan will be a significant milestone for the Tisza countries and the ICPDR

Just as the Tisza river has provided a basis of life to the people inhabiting the area for centuries, the five Tisza River Basin countries – Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia – have come together to provide the groundwork for shared responsibility to protect the Tisza River Basin for generations to come.

Collaboration by the Tisza countries on the environmental issues of the Tisza River Basin in recent years has laid the groundwork for the development of an Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan.

Starting with a smaller scale. The initial step in developing the Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan, was to scale down the results of the recent UNDP/GEF Danube Regional Project to the Tisza Sub-basin, in order to ensure that the plan will be developed from both a ‘top-down’ and a ‘bottom-up’ perspective.

A second project supported by the UNDP/GEF focused on developing the environmental benefits of wetlands to mitigate impacts of floods and droughts and help to reduce nutrient pollution in the Tisza River Basin. The objectives of this project, called ‘Integrating Multiple Benefits of Wetlands and Floodplains into Improved Transboundary Management for the Tisza River Basin’ or Tisza Project for short, were to integrate water quality, water quantity, land use and biodiversity objectives under the legal umbrella of the EU and ICPDR and to test new approaches on wetland and floodplain management through three communitybased demonstration projects.

Demonstrating solutions. The three-year Tisza Project, begun in 2008, has entered its final stage and will organise a final Stakeholder Meeting in Uzhgorod, Ukraine in April 2011. “The meeting will introduce the Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan and will bring together project managers of the Tisza demonstration projects to introduce results and lessons learned,” says Peter Whalley, Project Manager of the UNDP/GEF Tisza project.

The demonstration projects focused on testing the environmental benefits of wetlands to mitigate impacts of floods and droughts and to help reduce nutrient pollution. The pilot projects provided specific results of environmentally beneficial actions like enhancing wetlands by nutrient reduction, biodiversity improvements, flood mitigation and drought impact reduction.

“Land use management is crucial for sustainable water management,” says Péter Balogh, Project Manager of the Hungarian Integrated Land Development demonstration project. “It has to be integrated in a way that takes into account cultural knowledge of the Tisza River Basin.”

The INTegRaTed TIsza RIVeR basIN MaNageMeNT PlaN

The Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan is a major step toward meeting the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive. Its aim is to ultimately introduce balance to the Tisza River Basin: a balance between the needs of the river and the needs of the people living with it.

According to the 2007 Tisza Analysis, the basin is threatened by several significant water management issues such as organic pollution, hazardous substances, nutrient pollution and changes due to river engineering. While these four problems were identified as significant water management issues for the entire Danube River Basin, the Tisza Analysis showed that water quantity issues can also play an important role in reaching good water status. The integration of water quality and water quantity aspects is crucial for the Tisza River Basin.

The Tisza Group and the Tisza Project experts identified an additional six issues related to the integration of water quantity and water quality, specific to the Tisza River Basin. The six issues include problems from floods and droughts, the impacts of climate change, demands on groundwater and surface water, solid waste in the river, accidental pollution due to flooding and loss of wetlands.

Creating a plan from experience. The Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan includes an updated analysis detailing the pressures, gives an overview of the status of the waters of the Tisza River Basin, and identifies the measures needed to be implemented to reach good status of waters by 2015 as set out in the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive.

To express their commitment to the Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan and achieving its goals, Ministers of the five Tisza countries will also meet in Ukraine in April. ICPDR President for 2011, Mykola Melenevskyi, has highlighted the importance of the sub-basin plan and emphasised that it will be a significant milestone for the ICPDR.

Sharing strategies that work. The plan helps countries design and implement measures to reduce pressures resulting from organic, nutrient, hazardous substances pollution and river engineering changes, as well as strategies to address measures which might have positive impacts on both water quality and quantity by mitigating floods and droughts, improving land management and reconnecting floodplains and wetlands.

“Transboundary cooperation, education and awarenessraising are significant elements of the future activities and are essential tools for the successful implementation of Tisza Joint Programme of Measures,” says Olena Marushevska, public participation expert and Project Manager of the Ukrainian demonstration project.

The work of the Tisza Group has had significant support via grants and projects from the EU and the participating countries’ governments, as well as from UNDP/GEF and the United Nations Environment Programme – Vienna Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention.

Additionally, the European Commission/DG Environment provided both technical and directional support as well as co-financing project related activities.

The work done by the ICPDR Tisza Group toward the plan for the Tisza River Basin serves as a pilot programme for other European sub-basins and beyond. With the Integrated Tisza River Basin Management Plan, the ground has been set for all countries in the basin to work together to manage their land and water operations for the benefit of the environment and the people living in the region.

Diana Heilmann is a Project Staff member for Tisza River Basin Management at the ICPDR Secretariat.