“The right to healthy drinking water is an absolute priority. It is necessary to provide sufficient quantities of healthy drinking water, and take all measures to prevent flood damages as much as possible.”

These are some of the main goals of water management, pointed out by Nataša Milić, Acting Director of the Republic Water Directorate, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, during the webinar dealing with this topic, as part of the COVID Restart series, which was broadcast on Monday on the EU Facebook page – EU in Serbia.

The reason for holding this webinar was the International Danube Day, which is celebrated in Serbia on June 29 every year.

Dr. Momir Paunović, Institute for Biological Research “Siniša Stanković”, National Institute of the Republic of Serbia, University of Belgrade, Srđan Stanković, founder of the Supernatural Festival, Stephan von Keitz, Resident Twinning Advisor of the Twinning Project “Support to Policy Planning in the Water Management Sector”, and Antoine Avignon, Delegation of the European Union to Serbia discussed the challenges faced by Serbian rivers.

Duška Dimović from the World Wide Fund (WWF Serbia) acted as the moderator.

“We are aware that water protection has become an increasing challenge for man and nature, and that the water crisis is included in the five global risks that the world is facing. European Union Member States approached this problem in a good way in 2000, by adopting the so-called Water Framework Directive, which aims at achieving a good status of all surface and groundwater in the EU. Aquatic ecosystems know no boundaries, and therefore solving problems in this area requires close cooperation. “In addition, new challenges such as climate change will play a more important role for man and nature – in terms of floods and droughts – but also in terms of the entire biosystem,” said Stephan von Keitz, a German biologist involved in the EU water regulations project.

He spoke about the EU-Serbian cooperation and alignment of water regulations, which was also touched upon by Nataša Milić:

“This project started last year, with experts from Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, thanks to the European Union, which I would like to thank, because it recognizes the needs of water management, understands us, and we work with them on many projects.”

“It has been planned to fully align Serbian water laws with the EU regulations by the end of 2021”, she said.

Dr. Momir Paunović spoke about the dangers that rivers face.

“When we talk about pressures on rivers, we (mostly) talk about pollution, and pollution is just one of the pressures. Also important are those that occur due to physical alterations of the characteristics of the river, such as dams, hydropower plants, flood defence… These alterations strongly affect aquatic ecosystems, andm by saying so, we do not only talk about biological diversity. It is a connected system, and if the system does not work properly, that water will not be usable.” He also paid attention to the issue of mini hydro power plants, which has been very topical in our country in recent years.

“I think that benefit will be gained only by those who directly invest in them, and by the state or nature. We have to work towards producing energy, protecting ourselves from floods, using water in various ways, but this should not be to the detriment of nature, the local population and the state” he said, adding that he particularly opposes construction of mini hydropower plants in protected areas.

Srđan Stanković also spoke about the negative sides of mini hydro power plants. Civil society can influence decision-makers, Stankovic believes, but there are certain challenges – civil society should be better organized.

Strategy for biodiversity

“The good news is that the European Commission adopted a new Biodiversity Strategy on May 20, in order to bring nature back into our lives, as well as a new “field to table” Strategy, which aims at establishing an environmentally friendly food system. “These strategies are merging, and they are in line with the European Green System,” Antoine Avignon said in a video message." Antoine Avignon said in a video message.