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No. 17 (254) December 2014


The European Conference “EUROPE-INBO 2014” was held in Bucharest, Romania from 12 to 15 November 2014.

The Conference was dedicated to implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive, to which 28 EU member-states and associated states joined. The Framework Directive is accompanied by 7 various directives linked to water-related activity (directives on measurement methods, sampling frequencies, information exchanges on surface water quality, fisheries, groundwater, and dangerous substances in water).

One should note that implementation of WRD progresses according to the European Union’s plan on rivers, which is not related with large-scale water use, especially in dry areas. The Directive targets the countries at maintaining biological natural well-being indicators. However, it turned unfeasible to achieve the main targets of WRD by 2015 as was planned. Now, the national water plans and river basin management plans are to be prepared by 2027.

Public participation is currently in the focus as the interests of different water user groups should be taken into account when taking efforts for the achievement of water quality indicators. It is particularly important to involve stakeholders in implementation of river basin plans. The tasks undertaken previously under the Directive lacked public involvement, and failures of WRD often became evident only by the deadlines of measures undertaken by the members of the European Union. Thus, it was decided to enhance this work by organizing annually two conferences per basin, with wider involvement of all stakeholders.

Another significant shortage in implementation of the Directive is an inadequate pricing mechanism for ensuring sustainability of the water sector. This concerns the both pricing principles in the Directive, i.e. the user pays (for quantity) and the user pays for quality (depending on degree of pollution). Another bottleneck of directives is a poorly developed mechanism of transboundary river use. As far as the quality of transboundary river water is concerned, the communities are willing to take joint actions. However, when water allocation is at stake, the directives do not work. In Europe, there are 110 large river basins, of which 40 ones are transboundary. The representative of Portugal paid attention to complex relations between Portugal and Spain in context of such river basins, despite the decade-long effective treaties. The use of transboundary water for hydropower is addressed poorly in the European laws (representative of Belgium Mr. Lefebure), although energy regimes contribute to destabilization of river flow regimes. Among the problems related to transboundary water are the information exchanges that are similar to those in Central Asia. Exchange of information takes place at will of the informing parties and cannot be provided online. For instance, Turkey presented claims to Bulgaria that the information from this country was delivered with significant delays.

The representative of the Mediterranean Network Mr. Constantin noticed in his report that the success in the involvement of stakeholders was to be built only through thorough work with them. They should not be allowed to act only on their own initiative – NGOs in the water-related field should learn together with professionals so that the former could not forward irresponsible decisions and would understood what could and could not be advised on behalf of water users at the national and interstate levels.

The “Europe-INBO” President Mr. N. Karnolski underlined that the positive development trends were achieved for such rivers as Meuse, Schelde, and Rhine, where water allocation was not at stake, but basin approach was not implemented in the plans everywhere. Moreover, even in places, where it was developed and implemented, it is necessary to renew it every 6 years and evaluate its effectiveness.

The Conference of the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO) was opened on the 13th of November by Mr. Madine on behalf of the INBO President Mr. Kamara, High Commissioner of the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River. Mr. Madine stressed a need for seeking additional motivation, besides information exchange, for wider involvement of water agencies in the Network’s activities.

All regional branches reported during the meeting of the INBO World Liaison Bureau. The report of the EECCA Network underlined that the membership of this Network increased to 80 members by joining the representatives of 12 countries in the last year. Taking into account financial restraints, the Network mainly functions for exchange of information, development of Knowledge base, and organization of joint events together with the GWP CACENA and also with the ICID Working Group for the Countries under Transition. Nevertheless, the Network takes an active part in the events organized in context of water management and land reclamation in the region. During the last year, 7 various events were held with participation of the EECCA Network, including the Conference “Issues related to development of land reclamation and water management in Russia”, 22-25 April in Moscow, where the Network President Mr. Polad-zade took the floor; the Conference “Pure water in Russia” held in May 2014 in Yekaterinburg by RosNIIVIKH; the Conference “Land, water, and climate in Siberia and the Arctic” on 21 March 2014 in the Tyumen city. The 12th International Drainage Conference organized by the Land Reclamation Department of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture in June 2014 was very successful and brought together a lot of the EECCA Network members. The Network’s transactions are published regularly and the newsletters of INBO and the International Office for Water are offered in Russian for the general public. The raise of tensions in context of transboundary waters that has been observed in the region since the collapse of USSR was noticed in the report. Moreover, whereas initially cooperation between the countries was kept mainly through the earlier established professional relations and the inertia of joint work, the last decades the centrifugal forces of the countries enhanced significantly. This is mainly evident in the development of future projects on the use of water resources, and, to a certain degree, affects information exchange. Therefore, as early as 3 years ago, the region put forward an initiative for elaboration of the Water Charter as a set of rules similar to the road regulations that govern the traffic all over the world in order to have the universal rules for the use and development of transboundary water. A need for such document is felt in all parts of the world as the pressure of upstream countries using mainly hydropower resources, which is based on absolute national sovereignty, gradually grows. Hence, INBO was called to act as a platform to drive this proces.

In addition, during the opening, all regional networks welcomed the Conference participants and Prof. Dukhovny, Executive Secretary of EECCA NWO, on behalf of the Network President Mr. Polad-Zadeh, took the floor and stressed that the issues related to transboundary water use became especially pressing and pointed to a need for enhancing the role of INBO as a leading organization of water governance for further strengthening of international regulations in the area of water use and development.

The representative of the European Commission, DG Environment Mr. Jorge Rodriguez Romero in his welcome underlined that water quantity, besides water quality, became a very important issue for water use, as well as all-round observance of environmental demands.

The General Director of Apele Romane (Romanian National Water Administration) Mr.Gabor made a very interesting and informative presentation. “When we speak about water, we touch everything that is related to water, and this means that we speak generally about the lives of our people. Although Romania is well supplied with water from the rivers flowing in the Carpathian Mountains, we take an active part in activity of the Danube River Commission. Water quality and quantity and management of these two major indicators of water well-being are in our focus. In 2009, we developed the Water Resource Development Plan in Romania but as early as in 2014 we revised the Plan in context of information exchange, which is maintained through every basin authority. Although the population was strongly against water pricing, we adopted the water fee system, which is based on license payments. This license indicates both water quantities and water use schedules for every user.”

Many participants noticed that most European countries still fail to fulfill their own plans and criteria of environmental well-being in water bodies. France, for example, failed to reduce the nitrite content, while Belgium shows 22% higher pollutant content against new criteria.

One of serious concerns for all European countries is the achievement of financial self-sufficiency of the water sector; however, this is quite a complex task as this area is still strongly subsidized, especially irrigated agriculture.

Finally, the Conference adopted the Declaration to enhance implementation of the European Water Framework Directive. Prof. V.Dukhovny in his comments to the Declaration noted that this document is quite effective for national legislations; however, as far as transboundary water is concerned, it does not demonstrate the concerns and imminent threats occurring due to inadequate implementation of integrated water resources management at the interstate level. Failure to provide information or hiding of information by one riparian country to other countries should be considered inadmissible as such closing of information virtually can be treated as offence against humanity. The task of INBO and its membership is to develop hydrosolidarity and synergies, first of all, along transboundary water.