WWF applauds landmark achievement of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure long-term health of its rivers | WWF

WWF applauds landmark achievement of Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure long-term health of its rivers

Posted on
04 February 2013

Sarajevo – Bosnia and Herzegovina has become the first country in the western Balkan region to commit to incorporating nature conservation into its water legislation. A new law, developed with the support of WWF and local partner CESD, has been officially endorsed by the Parliament of the Federation of BiH. With its adoption the country has committed to ensuring sufficient quantities of healthy water for all users, from humans and industry to fish and other fauna and flora in its rivers and lakes.

“This is a landmark achievement which we are very proud to have contributed to,” said Francesca Antonelli, Head of the Freshwater Programme at WWF Mediterranean. “With this new law, we now have a guarantee that BiH will protect the healthy status of its water bodies, ensuring the provision of crucial services for the livelihood of people, such as water purification, fisheries and underground water recharge.”

In preparation for becoming part of the EU, Bosnia and Herzegovina has made a commitment to align to the standards and policies required by the EU. In the case of water management issues this is the Water Framework Directive (WFD), which aims to achieve good ecological status for all water bodies in the EU. An essential concept for the sustainable management of rivers is “environmental flow”, already used throughout the world to ensure that both nature and people can benefit equally from the resources rivers provide.

In BiH WWF and partner CESD facilitated the understanding and adoption of this approach, and an investigation was carried out to understand how the concept of environmental flow could be incorporated into existing legislation. The investigation was monitored and screened by water authorities who, in the process, became the true driving force for change and provided major political support for the adoption of the by-law.

“It is a great step for nature conservation to see water authorities open to innovation and keen to align with EU standards” continued Antonelli, “With technical assistance they developed and then endorsed a law which will bring enormous benefits to the management of fresh water in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

“The adoption of this by-law will not be an obstacle to development (e.g. hydropower), but provides a framework for sustainability which takes into account the needs of all users, including nature, to conserve the unique biodiversity of this beautiful part of the world”, concluded Mr. Vučijak from CESD.

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With the financial support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, WWF and Center for Environmentally Sustainable Development (CESD) from Sarajevo have been working for five years with local and national authorities in BiH to select potential methodologies of e-flow, test them on the ground and develop a country tailored methodology for determining environmental flow in its rivers, lakes and streams.