“We used to do a lot of things without thinking about the effects on
the environment,” says Naume Toskovski, an apple farmer in the Prespa
Lakes region. “We didn’t know that dumping apples would
pollute the water. Perhaps it’s a different story with pesticides and
fertilizers— the temptation for farmers is always to over-use these
chemicals and we know they are harmful for nature— but we didn’t know
just how harmful they were. Until recently we didn’t know of any better
Farming practices in this environmentally vulnerable
region — home to over 2,000 species of birds, fish and mammals — have
been identified as a major cause of pollution to the ancient freshwater
lakes. Over the years, many thousands of tons of rotten apples have been
dumped along the shores. And excessive use of pesticides and
fertilizers has been common practice for decades. Combined with the
effects of erosion and the lack of any sustainable management system for
the treatment of waste and wastewaters, these farming practices have
led to a severe deterioration in the health of the lake, posing a threat
to the habitat of the many endangered species unique to the Prespa Lake
UNDP, with funding from the GEF, has
been working closely with the local Municipality of Resen for many years
to restore the health of the Prespa ecosystem—helping farmers to adopt
more sustainable farming practices, raising public awareness of
environmental concerns, researching solutions to the complex pollution
problems in the waterbodies and developing a comprehensive plan for the
future management of the watershed.
Already these efforts have led to a thirty per cent
reduction in the quantity of pesticides used by farmers each season. And
the invaluable experience and knowledge gained in identifying and
tackling the pressures on the waterbodies has provided a sound
foundation for the development of a new six-year project that will
greatly improve the health of the waters.
The new project—‘Restoration of the Prespa Lake’—is
helping hundreds of farmers to learn and apply more environmentally
sustainable practices, including a model orchard for demonstrating the
many benefits of reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
With generous funding from the Swiss Development
Corporation in the amount of over five million USD, the project is
introducing a Lake Monitoring System and Management System with a
state-of-the-art laboratory to ensure local capacities are sufficient to
maintain the long-term health of the ecosystem.
The project will further apply the recommendations of the
Prespa Watershed Management Plan developed with UNDP support in 2012.
These include large-scale reforestation to combat the effects of
erosion, the introduction of wetland restoration techniques for
controlling floods and filtering the water of the Golema Reka river, and
nature-based upgrades of wastewater management.
These improvements in agricultural practices and watershed
management will significantly reduce the pressures on the lake, finally
bringing the detrimental process of eutrophication under control. In
this way the many rare and endangered species in the region will stand a
much better chance of survival.
And the benefits of the project will also be felt by local
people. Farmers will save money using organic compost and more
efficient methods of pest control and irrigation. Better quality water
will be available for all citizens in the municipality, while the
cleaner lake will help attract more tourism as an alternative source of
income to farming.
“With this project we are entering upon a new stage of
cooperation with our main partners,” says UNDP Resident Representative
Deirdre Boyd. “Together with the Municipality of Resen and the Ministry
of Environment and Physical Planning, we are committed to a major
long-term project with results that will be beneficial for local people
and for the ecosystem of this beautiful part of the country. This
project is itself the outcome of long-term cooperation and we hope it
will serve as a model of inclusive sustainable development.”
© Copyright United Nations Development Programme, 2009. All Rights Reserved.
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