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Tisza River Basin Integrated Sustainable Development Programme (TRB SDP)

Implementation period:

Tisza River Basin Integrated Sustainable Development Programme (TRB SDP)

The countries and regions in the Tisza River basin share a common recent history of communist-controlled systems, as well as the transition to democracy and market economies. This history has left the basin with a mixed legacy of pollution hotspots, declining heavy industries, a lack of economic development, high levels of unemployment, emerging patterns of regular flooding, and an increasingly fertile ground for social and ethnic tensions.

The Tisza River, together with its tributaries, drains the largest catchment area in the Carpathian Mountains before flowing through the Eastern Pannonian Plain and joining the Danube. The Tisza River basin is the largest of the 15 sub-river basins of the Danube River.

The river and its catchment area belongs to five countries: Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine. A total of 11,370,000 inhabitants live in the 171,000 km2 territory of the basin.

The Tisza River basin had experienced major flooding in the years prior to project implementation and attracted international headlines in 2000 following the disastrous Baia Mare cyanide spill. The European Commission established the Baia Mare Task Force in order to assess the reasons for the disaster and to recommend future actions. The task force found that the response to the cyanide spill was a positive example of cooperation among the countries and that a regional integrated programme for the sustainable development of the river basin was called for in order to create jobs and future prosperity for those living in the basin and to minimise the risk of similar accidents in the future.

The REC and the Regional Service Centre for the Regional Bureau for Europe of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bratislava proposed the development of the Tisza River Basin Sustainable Development Programme (TRB SDP), with the following primary goals:

  • Securing the prosperity of the people living in the river basin
  • Making sustainable use of the basin’s natural resources
  • Minimising environmental risks
  • Preserving natural and cultural values
  • Developing a participatory framework for cooperation between countries, sectors, communities and stakeholders in the river basin

Programme implementation was supported by the British Embassy, the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe, the Carpathian Foundation, the U.S. Embassy and the Danube-Carpathian Programme Office of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Main results of the planning and initiation phase
Stakeholders in the Tisza River basin in all five countries were identified and networks were created to gather information and identify needs during national workshops and at the closing international conference. National focal points and organisations were targeted in each country.

Preparations for the TRB SDP activities were supported via a dedicated website created and maintained by the REC.

Sources of information on legislation, programmes and projects, institutes and NGOs, as well as publications, were mapped and structured into meta-databases at country level. The important task of summarising and harmonising the meta-databases would take place during later phases of the TRB SDP in order to contribute to programming activities and to the monitoring and evaluation of projects within the TRB SDP.

Country reports
The results of the planning and initiation phase provided a solid foundation for future activities, in terms of both project programming and project monitoring and evaluation. Another key result was the introduction and use of a participatory approach to TRB SDP activities, which established the pattern for effective partnerships, creating a win-win environment for cooperation between stakeholders.

Sustainable development in the Tisza River Basin
The TRB SDP was designed to encompass the entire geographical area of the Tisza River basin, including its natural resources and ecosystems, the economy and all social groups.

Relevant institutions and organisations in the five countries already had information about conditions in the river basin and ideas for its future development. In this context, the most appropriate method for developing a comprehensive programme was to use a process approach, inviting all stakeholders to provide their input, based on a common understanding of the situation and of the problems and options for the future.

The proven methodology of target-oriented planning and implementation comprises a situation and stakeholder analysis, a problem analysis, an objectives analysis, an alternatives/strategic analysis, logical framework and programme planning, matrix development, project appraisal and selection, implementation with monitoring and control, evaluation and impact assessment.

Project scope

  • Identification of the necessary and most cost-effective principal remedial actions to protect human lives and property through the minimisation of environmental risks, including environmental hotspots and flood control.
  • Provision of public information about the state of the river basin through a combination of satellite imagery and traditional monitoring measures to offer a picture of the river basin accessible to the public via the Internet or through local or sectoral authorities and NGOs. Specific emphasis was given to access to information through local media such as newspapers and television stations, or through specific publications accessible to the broader public.
  • Consultation processes involving national and local authorities, as well as NGOs and the business sector, to determine needs as well as the scope of the programme, and to discuss proposed programme actions. The active participation of NGOs and local communities in this process was supported.
  • Capacity building for local and regional authorities with regard to the management of development programmes, environmental management and good local governance, including public access to information and public participation.
  • Socioeconomic analyses and the identification of development scenarios for key social-economic-geographical clusters. The first priority for analysis was the ore extraction/metal-processing industries and rural communities. Development scenarios were compared on the basis of their benefits for the economy and quality of life, as well as their environmental impact. The most promising economic activities (e.g. low-input farming, tourism, wood processing and renewable energy) were identified for active promotion.
  • Identification and cost-effective planning of the key infrastructure (transport, communications, municipal services) required to meet the objectives of the programme were mapped for submission to the EU, international donors and international financing institutions.
  • Assessment and coordination of regional development plans and spatial plans in order tofacilitate environmentally sustainable economic development, the minimisation of environmental risksand the preservation of natural and cultural values such as mountains, forests, wetlands and traditional landscapes.

With a clear vision and plans for future development, as well as the necessary investments, stakeholders in the TRB were enabled to invest their own resources wisely and attract additional international funding and investments from public sources and the private sector.

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