Building Back Better the Lipa Dam

Oct 2, 2017

Since it was first constructed in 1985 the Lipa Dam has played a truly vital role in the lives of some 1,000 local residents and farmers, providing irrigation water for 300 hectares of land and drinking water for over 700 cattle in a region that historically suffers from water scarcity.

Situated by the River Vardar, 20 km from the town of Negotino, the Lipa Dam has served as a lifeline for the villagers of Bistrinci, Koresnica and Lipa.

“The dam was built thirty years ago by a local businessman to overcome the problem of water shortage,” explains Jovan Gelov, president of the local community. “It quickly transformed the lives of the people in these three villages,” says Jovan, “especially for the farmers with cattle and those growing grapes and melons.”

Despite its local importance, however, the Lipa Dam suffered from a lack of investment and maintenance over the past three decades. Functional problems had already begun to emerge when the area was struck by heavy flooding in 2015.

The floods caused severe damage to the dam, leading to significant levels of seepage. Damages to the dam have made it vulnerable to further flooding, and it has not been able to fulfil its primary purpose ever since.

"We were suffering badly because of lack of water,” says Metodija Filimenov from the village of Koresnica. “Our homes, our land and our lives were all at risk.”

A solution to this crisis was provided by the EU Flood Recovery Programme, which was set up to assist the country’s recovery efforts in the aftermath of the floods that occurred in early 2015. The Lipa Dam project is one of dozens of reconstruction efforts implemented by UNDP as part of the programme.

Rather than simply rebuild what was there before, the programme applies a “build back better” approach to maximize resilience to future floods and mitigate the risk of floods in the most vulnerable regions of the country. 

In the case of the Lipa Dam, this required conducting detailed field surveys and engineering design to address the modifications and repairs needed to bring the structure into compliance with current dam safety standards.

These initial surveys found that the permanent repair of the dam would require a completely new approach.

Additional research resulted in a plan for reconstruction that will cost 700,000 EUR. As Dimitrija Sekovski, the manager of the EU Flood Recovery Programme, explains, this is a bigger financial investment in the dam in the space of one year than has been spent on the structure in the past 30 years combined.

“Work began last year,” says Sekovski, “at a time when the previous flood-prevention infrastructure was in ruins. The ‘building back better’ approach will result in a much safer and more sustainable structure.”

The works are expected to be completed by November 2017.

Тhis project is one of the several reconstruction projects funded by the EU Flood Recovery Programme. UNDP is implementing these reconstruction projects in close partnership with the Secretariat for European Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy, the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, the Water Management Organization, local governments of the affected municipalities as well as other key entities in the country’s system of disaster risk management.