PONT provides most of the financing of the 5-year strategic framework (2018-2022) of the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) by supporting its core financial and administration operations, and the implementation of the activities highlighted below.
Research on vegetation dynamics
As part of the collaboration between the SPP and the French research institute, and SPP member, Tour du Valat, under the LIFE Prespa Waterbirds project, a report entitled “Recommendations and guidelines for the management of the reedbeds of Lake Lesser Prespa”, was produced. The report follows an assessment of wetland vegetation dynamics and its recommendations for reedbed management are now being followed under the project.
Wetland vegetation management
In February 2019 a Truxor amphibian cutting machine was delivered to the SPP for wetland management use under the LIFE Prespa Waterbirds project. The machinery was accompanied by specialist trainers and related staff were accordingly trained in its use in order to carry out vegetation management in Lesser Prespa, particularly in creating firebreaks within the reedbed. The project aims to increase the vitally important areas of shallow open water where fish breed and waterbird species feed, as well as to reduce the potential of wildfires spreading throughout the reedbeds, which threaten Prespa’s colonies of waterbirds, such as the Dalmatian pelican.
Advocacy for effective planning and management of waters
The SPP has actively participated to the ongoing fitness check of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), its daughter Directives and the Floods Directive. In this context, the society submitted detailed comments to the e-questionnaire provided by the Commission in its public consultation process and joined the NGO-led ProtectWater campaign which ran over the consultation period.
Prespa Park Agreement
A highlight was the entry into force of the 2010 Agreement for the protection and sustainable development of the Prespa Park that took place on 29 May 2019, upon the dispatch by Albania of its notification to the other parties of the agreement that it had completed its internal procedures. This came as a result of two years of lobbying at many levels by the SPP and its partners, including PONT, GIZ, the German Embassy and KfW in Albania and the Municipality of Prespa in Greece, which the SPP prompted to ask for the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to look into the matter. It is now time to help get the implementation of the agreement under way, and in particular set up the long-awaited formal transboundary institutions.
Support for management of the Prespa National Park
Following the SPP’s appointment to the new board for the Management Body for the Prespa National Park (MBPNP) the SPP has worked intensively to assist the new chair of the board and guide him through the many issues and problems the MBPNP is faced with. This work continues the long-term (more than 15 years) fruitful and successful collaboration between the SPP and the MBPNP, in which capacity building activities through the implementation of specific conservation projects has led to successful results, shared planning, co-operation and increased capacity in both actors.
Dissemination of scientific knowledge & sharing of experience
The SPP has almost three decades of working to protect Dalmatian pelicans in Prespa and seeks to share this knowledge and experience as widely as possible amongst others through scientific articles. In addition, the SPP has been preparing ‘lessons learned’ documents for PONT, in order to share some of the knowledge and experience it has gained over its many years of conservation work in Prespa. The first documents concerned the use of timesheets as a time management tool, the development of a conflict of interest policy, environmental education programme development, and establishing a biodiversity monitoring system. The next upcoming ‘lessons learned’ document will deal with managing co-operation and partnerships with public bodies. These efforts aim to help strengthen capacity in protected areas and environmental actors in the basin through communicating the practical conservation experience the SPP has gained over the years.
Public meeting on wildfires
The SPP proposed a public meeting on the crucial issue of wildfires with the broad participation of concerned stakeholders, which was organised by the MBPNP, in co-operation with the Fire Service of Florina. The negative results of the practice of burning for the fertility of the fields was thoroughly explained, as well as the unsuitability of the practice for the suppression of reeds in the drainage ditches, together with the destructive effects on nature, while the fire service officials stressed the illegal character of the practice. The meeting concluded that a jointly signed letter from the municipality and other local stakeholders, requesting a locally-based fire service task force, should be sent to the competent minister and that the possibility of setting up a local volunteer fire-fighting group should be explored.
Participatory and Transboundary Wetland Management
The wildfire issue was also raised in the wetland vegetation management report presented to the Greek Wetland Management Committee (WMC), along with the Operational Plan for wetland vegetation management for 2019. Both reports form the basis for wetland management in 2019. Notably, data from the project were also used in respective reports for fish and fisheries and waterbirds populations prepared for the WMC meeting. The WMC is a participatory governance scheme, involving Prespa stakeholders in decision-making for the wetlands and their management, which has been running for 12 years now. In addition, the second meeting of the Transboundary Wetland Management Technical Group was held in May, with invited representatives from the national parks and protected areas of the Prespa basin, as well as the members of PrespaNet. The management and monitoring activities in the three parts of the basin were presented at the meeting as well as proposals for further transboundary collaboration.
The youth club established under the LIFE Prespa Waterbirds project, Presplorers, has continued its meetings with fieldtrips to see areas under management by the project. Through both science and experiential learning in these activities, these young people have come to understand the needs of the wetland and are also proposing ways to implement project actions. In addition, following a series of preparatory meetings, the Presplorers also launched a photographic exhibition to celebrate World Wetlands Day in February.
Community engagement and support – PoliPrespa
The SPP’s PoliPrespa project, is a four-year multi-partner project working in the fields of the environment, economy and society, and encompasses a wide variety of capacity-building activities that provide support to the local community on the Greek side of Prespa.
An environmental education programme was carried out with primary schoolchildren on the Greek side of the basin over three sessions from April to June. The subject of the programme was wild plants, using a variety of creative activities to teach children about the basic ecology of plants and their functions in the ecosystem of Prespa. The programme will also be carried out by partners PPNEA and MES in the autumn. In other transboundary work, the trilateral mid-winter counts of waterbirds were carried out under difficult weather conditions this year. Despite the fact that on the North Macedonian side it was impossible to reach certain points owing to snow cover, in total more than 47,000 waterbirds were counted on Great Prespa Lake, of which 65% were coots (Fulica atra). In Lesser Prespa Lake, only a portion of the Greek part of the lake was accessible to birds with open water and in total 1,517 individuals of 19 species were recorded there.
PONT would like to congratulate the SPP for the successes achieved so far in 2019 and is looking forward to see what exciting news the rest of the year will bring.