Water for Life - Restoring the Health of the Strumica River Basin
The Strumica River Basin - a vital ecosystem at risk
The ecosystem of the Strumica River Basin is vital to the lives of the people in the region. Covering almost 7 per cent of the country’s territory, with a total area of 1,649 km2, and home to 124,500 people, the river basin supplies water for drinking and agriculture and provides a crucial habitat for countless plants and animals. But this delicate ecosystem is now threatened by pollution and extreme fluctuations in water level caused both by human use and climate change.
“Water for Life,” a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project funded by Switzerland (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation), will partner with the Ministry of Environment and local municipalities to identify the key threats and coordinate efforts to protect the Strumica River Basin while reducing the risk of floods and droughts.
The Strumica River Basin is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Water levels and water quality are already under pressure from agriculture, which is the chief source of income for most of the local population.
Heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides and reliance on water for irrigation in the intensive production of vegetables and grapes pose threats to the ecosystem that could ultimately jeopardize the livelihoods of the farming families.
Heightened demand for water from industry and urban areas make the problem worse, and the building of channels and reservoirs heightens the risk of droughts and floods. And as climate change yields higher temperatures and less rainfall, future decades will bring the risk of an extreme scarcity of water.
To avoid this threat and protect the Strumica River Basin ecosystem, coordinated action by all stakeholders is vital. Better management of the river basin is essential to balance the many competing needs for water resources and ensure a healthier land-use structure.
More sustainable farming practices need to be introduced. But first of all, an accurate and up-to-date picture of the status of the Strumica River Basin is required, both to assess the threats and to plan a credible response. Monitoring and data are the key to any effective management response to the growing pressures on water.
Establishing a monitoring system to collect this data, preparing a river basin management plan and engaging all river basin stakeholders in a workable decision-making body are the main goals of the “Water for Life” project.
The project will help bring the country closer to European Union (EU) norms by using the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Floods Directive as frameworks. And it will map out a wide range of future activities in the river basin that will help restore water quality and flow.
By helping to find the right balance between the demands for water for human development with the needs for environmental protection, the project will contribute to the inclusive and sustainable growth and development of the Strumica river basin.