New Wastewater Treatment Plant Brings Health and Hope to Prespa Lakeside Village

Wastewater treatment plant in Nakolec (Photo: UNDP)

The village of Nakolec lies by the River Bracjinska close to the shore of the beautiful Lake Prespa. The health, jobs and quality of life of some 500 villagers here are closely interconnected with the ecosystem of the beautiful but environmentally vulnerable lake. Pollution of the lake and river, especially pollution from untreated wastewater, poses a direct threat to local people’s livelihoods and wellbeing.

“Living so close to water—the river and the lake—brings us many benefits,” says 48-year-old Gzim Sulejmani. “But at the same time it brings many risks. If the waters are polluted, we all suffer the effects.”

Gzim’s perception of the threats facing his village from water pollution has been confirmed by a recent UNDP-backed scientific assessment. This study identified Nakolec as the community in the Municipality of Resen most at risk from the negative effects of inadequate treatment of wastewater. This vulnerability arises from the proximity of the village to the lake and the river, as well as high groundwater levels that increase the dangers to human health from untreated sewage.
 
Today, the worst of the dangers from pollution have been overcome through the construction of a sewage network and modern wastewater treatment plant for the village. One of many projects to restore the ecosystem of the Lake Prespa basin, this latest initiative was organized by UNDP in cooperation with the Municipality of Resen and the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, with funding of over 500,000 USD provided by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Global Environment Facility.

“Before the project,” says Gzim, “we were becoming quite pessimistic. We couldn’t see a solution to the nuisances caused by sewage. We lived in constant fear of epidemic outbreaks, and a lot of young people wanted to leave the village. This new plant, together with all the other efforts being made here, has given our children another reason to remain in the village and contribute to the development of our community and a better future for Prespa.”

UNDP has been supporting Prespa stakeholders to address the challenges of wastewater management by helping extend existing sewerage networks to connect households and industry to existing municipal wastewater treatment plants. But particularly for communities beyond the reach of the municipal system, initiatives like the Nakolec project also demonstrate the effectiveness of decentralized, small-scale wastewater treatment systems.

“We are particularly grateful for the local community’s commitment to this project,” says UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton. “Their contributions show the importance of organizing local action to achieve the success of projects like this. Together, we have been able to build a sewage network of approximately 4.2 kilometres and a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant. The system now ensures the safe evacuation and treatment of considerable quantities of wastewaters from the entire community of Nakolec. Besides overcoming a longstanding environmental and social concern, this wastewater treatment project sets an example of locally operated, low-cost, high efficiency treatment system, with excellent prospects for sustainability.”

A constructed wetland treatment system was chosen because of its comparative advantages for the local socio-economic context. The local community of Nakolec has hired the necessary personnel to take over the operation and maintenance of the system. The costs for the treatment service will be covered entirely by the local community by slightly increasing the local water tariff.

The Mayor of the Municipality of Resen, Gjoko Strezovski, warmly welcomes the project, pointing out that the new plant will not only benefit the health and economy of Nakolec but will also help preserve the ecosystem of the entire lake basin.

 “This is just one of the multitude of successfully completed environmental investments projects in Prespa, says the Minister of Environment, Nurhan Izairi. “By simultaneously addressing all the key threats to the fragile ecosystem of Lake Prespa, we are finally witnessing the process of restoration of its natural functions and values that are critical to the region’s well-being.”

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