GWP Moldova helps create the first biosphere reserve in the Lower Prut region

In 2018, the International Coordinating Council of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme approved the registration of the Lower Prut Biosphere Reserve, which has now officially become the first biosphere reserve in Moldova.

This Lower Prut Biosphere Reserve encompasses the Prut River and floodplain lakes. The wetland area along the Prut River, covering a mosaic of water, meadow and forest ecosystems includes nine settlements from the southern Cahul district, in which the main economic activity is agriculture, providing 90% of the inhabitants’ income.

 Bringing together local actors

For the period between 2008 and 2018, GWP Moldova with the support of the National Commission for UNESCO facilitated more than 25 consultations, workshops and meetings with local authorities and the public in all 11 localities of the Lower Prut region. The events were organized with the support of NGO Ecostrategii, the Office for Biodiversity at Ministry of Environment, NGO Ecosprectru, Ecological Consultation Cahul, Cahul University, ULIM and other partners. This was a critical aspect of the establishment of the Reserve, as the municipalities lacked the information and experience in managing the land and water resources under strict environmental conditions.

During the discussions the local authorities were informed on the ecosystem functions of the biosphere areas, and the objectives of the Reserve management. The following issues were identified to be part of the dossier for creation of the biosphere reserve: i) information on state of the environment in the area; ii) proposals for use of natural resources of the Lower Prut region and what trades could be developed, iii) better sharing of institutional responsibilities in the region and clear role of local public and sectoral authorities in management of the biosphere area; iv) modalities of the involvement of local population in creation and management of the biosphere area; v) economic analysis for the development of certain trades in the Lower Prut region and cooperation with Romanian counterparts.

In addition to the consultations, a number of local and regional events were organized in order to present to the local population the benefits for social and economic development in case of the creation of the biosphere area such as promotion of local trades, rural tourism, organic farming, infrastructure development. Special attention was also given to the estimation of opportunities for development of organic farming.

During the preliminary phase of the creation of the Lower Prut biosphere reserve, GWP Moldova network also organized several events on the implementation of the provisions of the EU Water Framework Directive, which became a part of actual water legislation in Moldova after signing and ratifying of the Association Agreement with EU. Public events and public hearing to strategic documents were instrumental to convince local authorities that sustainable economic development of the area is linked to sound environmental protection. All involved stakeholders acknowledged the opportunities, which could arise from the strengthened cooperation between Moldavian and Romanian authorities to develop Lower Prut region and thus contribute to improvement of the social and economic conditions of local population.

From discussions to action

The involvement of different governmental and local authorities, civil society, scientific institutions and academia helped generate strong support from the communities, general public and international institutions. A crucial step was the commitment of local communities to allocate land in their ownership to the biosphere reserve. The difThe whole process led to priority development measures being stipulated in the local municipalities’ agendas. In 2015, as a result of these joint efforts a Biosphere Reserve was created by decision of district Council of Cahul.

The national dossier about the reserve for UNESCO headquarters was prepared by national experts and Central institutions (MoldSILVA), and in 2018 the Moldavian application for the creation of the first biosphere reserve area in Moldova was approved.  

The Reserve was set up to conserve the biodiversity, maintain the genetic activity of plants, promote ecological agriculture, reestablish woods, pastures, meadows and conserve the water resources, reduce the emissions of gases and chemical pollutants, turn to good account the tourism potential, improve the infrastructure and ensure the social and economic development of the region.