Restoration of the Prespa Lake Ecosystem


The countryside around Lake Prespa.
The countryside around Lake Prespa. © UNDP

Lake Prespa is situated in the three-country border area of Albania, Macedonia, and Greece. Thanks to its biodiversity, the local ecosystem is of global significance. The widespread, improper disposal of waste is polluting both surface and ground water. The SDC is helping to decontaminate these waterways and to raise awareness of environmental issues.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Macedonia
Water
Environment
Environment protection
Integrated water resource management (watershed)
Water resources policy and advocacy
Integrated water resource management (watershed)
Water resources policy and advocacy
01.12.2011 - 30.06.2018
CHF 6'682'000

Lake Prespa is part of a globally unique hydrological system and belongs to the 'ancient' lakes estimated at dating back to around 5 million years. In 2014, the Ohrid-Prespa lake region was designated as a UNESCO Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. The Macedonian side of Lake Prespa is home to some 17,000 people in the municipality of Resen, which comprises the town itself and 43 neighbouring villages. The regional economy is primarily based on agriculture, in particular apple cultivation. The improper disposal of waste in and around the lake in the past has resulted in the pollution of the surface, ground and lake waters.

Improving the environmental condition of Lake Prespa: the main objective 

The SDC is supporting the municipality of Resen in implementing the action plan for the Prespa Lakes Basin. Because agricultural waste – primarily from apple production – is disposed of in the waterways, there are excessive amounts of nutrients in the lake. Measures to reduce these high levels of nutrients are defined and implemented as part of the project. The project also aims to restore wetlands, tributaries and ecological buffer zones, identify protection zones and combat erosion. 

A modern waste management system

Another project activity is to establish a sustainable waste management system and to clean up illegal landfill sites in the Prespa Lakes Basin. At the same time, local residents have been encouraged to recycle materials such as paper and metal. As apple production creates large amounts of organic waste, a composting system has been built. This waste is being turned into organic fertiliser instead of being dumped into the lake. Farmers now only use compost instead of chemical fertilisers, helping to reduce the amount of agrochemicals entering the water. The use of pesticides has already declined by 30% thanks to the sustainable apple orchard management brought about by the project. 

Soil quality has also improved at the same time. The new composting system benefits farmers and the environment alike: because fewer agrochemicals are needed, production costs for the growers decline. Farmers can also carry out soil analyses at a newly-equipped agrochemical laboratory to optimise the quality of their soil using targeted measures. 

Towards autonomous implementation of the project 

The municipality of Resen has been supported by the United Nations Development Programme since the beginning of the project and is on the way to achieving autonomy in implementing a variety of environmental protection measures. From now on it will only receive a minimum of support. However, it will be able to rely on a sustainable system and the good practices that it has actively contributed to establishing.  Furthermore, a team of rangers are constantly patrolling the area to prevent poaching and fires. Analyses of the lake water are being carried out on a regular basis and a school is training local farmers in ecological farming techniques for managing apple orchards.

The project has also facilitated efforts to raise awareness of ecology among local people and of the importance of sustainability. 

Prospects 

In order to enable other regions to benefit from the experience gained through this project, there are plans to assist the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning in the development and implementation of other water management plans. A project to restore the River Strumica basin is currently under way. 

Like Macedonia, Albania and Greece have also adopted a number of measures to protect Lake Prespa.  Strengthening cross-border cooperation and the coordination of environmental measures are an important precondition for the sustainable preservation of the lake's ecosystem.