The ongoing dramatic water level drop of Lake Prespa has prompted the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning of North Macedonia to adopt a set of urgent measures to ensure good water status as well as to protect soil and biodiversity for the benefit of both people and the lake ecosystem. Developed with support from prominent national scientists and experts, the Action Plan also aims at ensuring wise and sustainable use of water resources to stabilize water level fluctuations of the transboundary Lake Prespa. The Action Plan calls for cooperation and coordinated action by all three riparian countries to better understand the driving forces behind the dramatic drop of the water level, including climate change, anthropogenic water consumption and the complex basin hydrology. Several measures concern the exchange of data and information, as well as coordinated monitoring of quantity and quality or surface and groundwater, as well as the lake ecosystem and the rich and exceptional biodiversity it supports. The establishment of the Prespa Park Management Committee and its subsidiary bodies under the 2011 Agreement on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park Area, is therefore considered a highest priority action. Other measures aim at restoration and active management of critical habitats, such as reed beds and wetlands or sustainable use of natural resources, such as fisheries.
PONT’s support to the implementation of the Action Plan comes timely with the decision of its Supervisory Board of 16 December 2020 to approve five three-year grants to protected area authorities and Environmental Actors in Prespa, North Macedonia, with a total amount of €1,602,382.
The grant to Resen Municipality, managing the Lake Prespa Monument of Nature and Ezerani Nature Park, extends PONT’s co-financing of operational costs, including hiring a chemist and biologist at the Lake Prespa Monitoring Station at Stenje. This is complemented by ongoing grants to the Hydrobiological Institute Ohrid and the Macedonian Ecological Society (MES) helping Resen Municipality to build capacity to conduct long-term monitoring of water, habitats, and species of Lake Prespa and its watershed.
The grant to MES supports the ongoing cooperation with Resen Municipality and local stakeholders in restoring critical wetland habitats Prespa, such as wet meadows and alder forest (a priority habitat under the EU Habitat Directive). The grant will help MES study the impacts of climate change on the lake ecosystem in cooperation with the Society for the Protection of Prespa, Greece, and Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania – all three being members of the transboundary network of NGOs – PrespaNet.
PONT’s three-year grants to Pelister and Galicia National parks support the park authorities in the gradual transition from profit- to conservation-oriented forestry management to improve the health of Prespa basin’s ecosystem. The fifth three-year grant concerns the organization of the international Ohrid Ultra Trail event by the Association of Sports “Sports for all – all for Sport” Ohrid, in partnership with Galicica National Park, that promotes non-consumptive uses of park’s natural resources to create benefits for local people outside the high tourism season.
PONT has committed additional co-financing for the grantees for nature conservation projects developed under the EU financed Prespa Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Programme, to be launched in 2021.
Both PONT and the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning are looking forward to a long-term fruitful and effective cooperation for the benefit of people and nature in Prespa.