Twinning Project “Support to policy planning in water management sector”

09.08.2019, Stephan von Keitz

Clean rivers, lakes and groundwater are essential for good life conditions. Unfortunately, a lot of natural rivers have disappeared during the last decades and water pollution has become an increasing threat to man and nature. In 2000, the European Union introduced the “Water Framework Directive“. Polluted water shall get clean again, and healthy waters should remain in this status.

Although Serbia is not a member of the EU yet, there is a strong will and need to harmonize domestic legislation relating to water with European practices. The EU Twinning Project “Support to policy planning in water management sector” aims at achieving real improvement in water quality. It has identified the need for improvements in the water sector, primarily in the field of tailor-made measures to address significant problems.

The main purpose of this project is to improve water management in Serbia. The accession to the EU offers a chance to integrate new opportunities for water protection. In order to reach this, an international team of experts assists Serbia’s water administration and other stakeholders in tackling their tasks in the field of integrated water resource management.

The key objective of the Twinning Project is to strengthen the capacities of the Republic Water Directorate and Public Water Management Companies “Srbijavode” and “Vode Vojvodine” to implement the principles of the EU WFD in integrated water management, through the development of a complete 1 st Serbian River Basin Management Plan 2021-2027.

A RBMP Steering Group, consisting of representative of all beneficiaries, has been established by the Twinning Project in order to supervise the process of drafting the plan. It convenes on a regular basis (every 4-6 weeks) and secures active involvement of all members in order to overcome problems, to make decisions and to provide continuous supervision of all activities. Based on the Table of Contents (ToC) for the RBMP, a clear roadmap for the work has been created.

The outcome of this project will be tailor-made solutions and concepts on how to meet various requirements of the WFD. The project covers all aspects of the WFD implementation in order to prepare the country’s reporting obligations. The project will end in 2020, but transnational cooperation, e.g. in the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube, will continue.

Component 1:
To achieve a ‘good ecological status’ is the main objective for all rivers in Europe. But what is the water quality like in Serbia? While in EU Member States the ecological status gets assessed on a regular basis, water monitoring in Serbia gives only very limited information. The objective of monitoring is to establish a coherent and comprehensive overview of water status within each River Basin District and to allow classification of all water bodies into one of the five classes.

To date, the state of the environment has been mostly discussed in Serbian media in special situations, such as the period of severe floods, water pollution incidents, fish die-off etc.
However, long-term pressures like nutrients, wastewater and bank fixation are quite important not only for the daily life of people, but also for the flora and fauna. Biological monitoring is the core of EU-wide status assessment. From 9 th to 13 th September, a team of 30 experts from Serbia and Germany will travel more than 1,000 km throughout Serbia. In total, 15 monitoring sites will be assessed.
The team will gather comprehensive scientific information, strengthen cooperation among the scientific community and increase public awareness of water quality protection. The information is essential in order to get an overview of the water quality needed to meet the requirements of “a good status” according to the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) standards. Furthermore, it will help to allow a transnational comparison of results, e.g. on international rivers like the Sava, Tisza and Drina.

Component 2:
It is of paramount importance that investments are tailored to the specific circumstances in order to enhance their efficiency. In order to achieve a good status of surface water and groundwater, it will be necessary to implement certain measures. These measures have been partly described in previous EU water directives listed in Annex VI of the Water Framework Directive. The measures usually require heavy investments, e.g. in the drinking water and the wastewater sector.
Water pricing and cost recovery issues are usually linked to these investments. They are often combined with other management strategies, e.g. to reduce water use through the management of demand. Integrated funding for water management in Serbia should be based on:

• reliable function and service
• sustainable management and operation of the infrastructure.

Component 3:
Experience has shown that public and/or stakeholder direct participation in planning is the key to the development of successful strategies. Public involvement on water issues consists of the following tasks:
• Sensitization of population in order to understand the role of water in nature,
• Raising awareness of water pollution, floods and other water related problems,
• Strengthening and enhancement of active involvement of people.
One of the goals connected to these tasks is to empower people for an active water-friendly behavior and reasonable use of water resources.
Civic participation means that citizens participate in political decisions. For instance, in Article 14 of the WFD, there are also provisions for the involvement of the public into the process of the implementation of the WFD. Among the provisions, it is to delineate between:
• information,
• consultation by written statements on documents published on the RWD website
• active participation.
In cases of information and consultation of the public, the following documents are foreseen to be published on the RWD website:
• A time plan and work program for drafting the River Basin Management Plan (expected in September 2019),
• An overview of significant water management issues concerning the RBMP (expected in October 2019)
• a draft of the RBMP after it will have been compiled (expected in spring 2020).