On Course for Sustainable Water Resource Management
Project gives Duma recommendations for strategic water-resource management

“Systematise hazard risk management; effectively implement Russia’s new Water Code; and develop alternative financing solutions for tackling Volga-related problems.” These were the three key recommendations heard by representatives of Russia’s state Duma and envoys of leading international organisations at a policy roundtable convened in Moscow, February 27, 2007. The recommendations were drawn from a series of consultations organised by the CABRI-Volga project with experts in river basin management during its 27-month lifetime, undertaken with a view to defining sustainable development options.

“Systematising risk management is necessary to tackle the risk of accidents posed by unsafe industrial facilities, floods from the poor condition of dams, and health risks posed by sub-standard drinking water,” reported Siegfried Rupprecht, CABRI-Volga Project Manager to roundtable participants. To implement the new Water Code, administrative reform is necessary in order to effectively realise water basin district management. In overcoming cash-strapped budgets for dealing with water quality problems, implementing the “Polluter-Pays” principle means “Every rouble paid for polluting the water, should be used for cleaning the water,” concluded Rupprecht.

The aim of the largely political event was to identify opportunities for further cooperation between the EU and Russia, in light of these recommendations. Among the political measures and practical activities brought forward were further legislative development, know-how exchange, and collaboration in research concerning the impacts of global-warming.

During the discussions that ensued, Dr. Tatyana Moiseenko, Professor of Ecology at the Russian Academy of Sciences called for the definition of standards or “reference conditions” for the Volga, adding that the water-rich Netherlands can serve as a role model for Russia. Participants noted the value in sharing not only European but US and Asian experiences in river basin management, especially local practices. And Tatiana Shipitsina of the EU’s “Water Initiative” encouraged the development of twinning projects that encompass capacity building. One example might be linking with the EU and Balkan networks of environmental inspectors (respectively IMPEL and ECENA).

Political mechanisms that could play host to such cooperation were also proposed. Jean-Louis Lavroff of the European Commission’s delegation to Russia put forward the new EU-Russia permanent partnership council for the environment, while Shipitsina highlighted the EU-national policy dialogues, hosted with non-member countries. The latter encompasses assistance for integrated water resources management, including water supply and wastewater treatment financing. Representatives of the country’s political administration were invited to articulate concrete suggestions on how to address the Volga’s problems.

Delegates also observed the importance of cooperation with Russian society and its involvement in sustainable water resources management. Dr. Irmgard Schwaetzer of the German Committee for Disaster Reduction suggested a platform of researchers, policymakers and NGOs be established to identify the vulnerability and hazards faced by society and determine next steps in reducing these. Professor Alexander Likhotal of Green Cross International agreed: “Civil society needs to be involved as much as possible.” He underlined the importance of a balance between federal and regional authorities, business and civil society in assuring the success of the Volga’s management.

In reflecting on the thorny issue of financing water management, Jean-Louis Oliver, the Secretary General of the French Water Academy related France’s experiences. “Water must finance water.” In France, six river basin agencies collect fees and reinvest these revenues back into projects. This finances an average of 50 percent of domestic water works investments, through subsidies for local governments and soft loans for enterprise.

Participants praised the recommendations calling them “a roadmap” for action in the future, remarking “it would be a shame to lose the momentum of the project.” Said Janos Bogardi, Professor at the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security and founding father of the “Volga Vision” strategy, “if we break now, we lose the momentum started with the Volga Vision. CABRI-Volga’s conclusions are an opportunity to continue the Volga’s development.”

The roundtable concluded by endorsing the recommendations and the cooperative opportunities brought forward by its participants. Organisations and initiatives not able to attend but with an interest in supporting the recommendations’ valorisation are invited to write us.

 

This article summarises the results of the meeting:

Policy roundtable for Russian and EU policymakers: “Russia’s Water Code and the EU’s Water Framework Directive – A Dialogue of Research and Practice”
Moscow, 27 February, 2007

See the meeting's background documents

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Organisations and initiatives not able to attend but with an interest in supporting the recommendations’ valorisation are invited to write us.