German banks finance protection of lakes Prespa and Ohrid
Monday, September 29, 2003
Macedonia, Environment News Service, by Natasa Dokovska
The German government has announced that it will finance protection of lakes Prespa and Ohrid by funding the construction of wastewater pipes and rehabilitation of water purification facilities.
Lake Ohrid is one of the largest biological reserves in Europe, possessing unique plants and animals that are extinct elsewhere. Erosion, agricultural run-off and high concentrations of phosphorus are the primary sources of pollution in the lake.
The Macedonian and Albanian governments said Sunday that they will sign a contract with the German financiers for protection of the Prespa and Ohrid lakes. The decision was reached at a meeting between the representatives of both governments and members of nongovernmental organizations from the two neighboring countries.
The project includes building three main pipes for wastewater, which will stretch along 120 kilometers of the lakes' costal zone. Funds will cover separation on the main pipe, and rehabilitation of water purification facilities. Construction completion for the three water purification plants on Ohrid and Prespa lakes is expected in 2005.
Lake Ohrid from the Macedonian side (Photo courtesy Water Management of Macedonia)
The lakes are located in the far southwest of Macedonia. Lake Prespa is shared with both Albania and Greece. Two-thirds of Lake Ohrid's surface area of 358 square kilometers belongs to Macedonia while the rest is in Albanian territory. Fishing villages and three cities line the lake’s shores - Ohrid and Struga in Macedonia, and Pogradec in Albania.
Total cost of the lake protection project is 14.8 million euros. The financing will flow through the Consortium of German Banks (KFB), Germany's credit institution for promoting the economic development of emerging countries.
KFB will contribute 11.2 million euros. Other financing will be provided by the Macedonian government and the Italian based international organization PROAQUA.
The project will be completed with technical aid from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH. The GTZ is a government owned corporation that operates on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to positively shape the political, economic, ecological and social development in partner countries.
Representatives at the meeting also decided to find special funds for the protection of the area's wildlife, particularly the endemic Ohrid trout which have steeply declined during the past few years.
Also, representatives of the nongovernmental organizations asked for a project that would create a balance between plants and animals in Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest lakes in the world, estimated at between two to three million years old.
The first contract will cover the water purification station in Podgradec, Albania, and it should be finished in 16 months, delegates at the meeting were told. The station in Ohrid is scheduled for completion in the first part of next year, and on the Prespa Lake, in Resen, the water purification facility should be rehabilitated sometime in 2005.
Fishing boats on the Albanian shore of Lake Ohrid (Photo courtesy Galen Frysinger)
According Dejan Panovski, responsible for implementing the project for Ohrid and Prespa Lakes, this is very big project, and it is very difficult to predict the time it will take for construction of pipes and water purification stations. Panovski hopes that all will be finished in the timeframe of 18 months.
When the project is finished more than 80 percent of Ohrid Lake, and more than 90 percent from Prespa Lake will be protected from polluted water. These actions are critical since the inflow and outflow are so small that the lake’s water is exchanged only every 60 years.
The World Bank, which is funding an environmental management project of the lake’s watershed for Macedonia and Albania, says maintenance of the long term ecological stability of Lake Ohrid is in danger unless action is taken to improve environmental management of the catchment area and the shoreline, and to prevent the accumulation of pollutants in the lake.
In Albania, the World Bank Ohrid Lake project is ongoing and completion is expected at the end of this year. The German KFB banking consortium has said it will donate 10 million euros to construct one main pipe station in Podgradec.
According to Naum Gekprifti in Podgradec, the city needs pipe upgrades due to a rapidly increasing population. Ten years ago fewer than 15.000 people lived in Podgraduc, but today there are more than 40,000 inhabitants.
The lake area remains one of the most popular summer tourist destinations in Macedonia and Albania.