A boost to cross-border conservation between Albania and Montenegro

National Agency for Protected Areas of Albania and Public Enterprise National Parks of Montenegro signed a cooperation agreement today in Podgorica, deciding to enhance the cross-border cooperation in nature protection. Only the wise use of the biodiversity will guarantee the preservation of natural resources for the benefit of people in both countries.

Educating the young ones on nature values

The General Director of the National Agency of Protected Areas of Albania, Mr. Zamir Dedej emphasized that this was a positive step in the cooperation between the protected areas institutions. “There have been several attempts to increase the collaboration between two countries in the environmental field so far. We think it is time to connect the signed agreements with concrete joint action plan, that would include important stakeholders in the area, aiming to increase the results of the cooperation for the nature conservation in Shkodra/Skadar Lake and Buna/Bojana River, as well as in the mountain areas,” said Mr Dedej.

“This project and today’s event are excellent examples of good cooperation established between the partnering organizations, donor and institutions. This project’s support to the development of the Management plan for NP Skadar Lake was significant – the plan that defines this area’s development directions in the next five years was just recently adopted by the Government. With experts’ support we have elaborated a quality document to guide our work within the defined frame”, said Azra Vukovic, Director of the Public Enterprise National Parks of Montenegro. “By signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the National Agency for Protected Areas of Albania, we agree to share information and plan joint activities that will improve management of the protected area and reduce illegal activities resulting in a promotion of these areas’ unique natural values and enabling the economic development of local communities”, she concluded.

Experts working in nature conservation across borders easily find a common language, as they share objectives and visions. “Cooperation across borders is about dedicated people working together for the benefit of shared natural heritage, and IUCN is committed to supporting the efforts that will boost the cross-border conservation and management of Skadar Lake, and other shared protected areas. We are keen to see both authorities, communities and civil society contributing to this goal,” said Mr. Boris Erg, Director of IUCN’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Due to the high diversity of habitats and species Lake Skadar is designated as a protected area both in Albania and Montenegro as well as recognised internationally as Ramsar and Emerald site, and an Important Bird and Plant Area. IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (IUCN ECARO) partnered with the Institute for Nature Conservation in Albania (INCA), Green Home of Montenegro and protected areas and nature conservation authorities to work towards the effective management of this lake's biodiversity, through the CEPF funded project "Long term support for sustainable transboundary management of Skadar Lake," finalized today in Podgorica.

“The empowered and integrated cross border cooperation is crucial for the conservation of the nature, culture and ecotourism values of Shkodra Lake,” stressed the Executive Director of INCA, Mr. Nihat Dragoti. “We should work more on improving the relations between people and the resources of Shkodra Lake since it is a unique ecosystem that provides livelihoods for people on both sides of the border and for the future generations,” he concluded.

Besides the signed cooperation agreement, major achievements of the project partners include drafting of the second Management plan for Skadar Lake National Park 2016-2020 following IUCN best practices and standards, a proposal for new management zoning for Lake Shkodra Managed Nature Reserve, covering the Albanian part of the region, and a Manual Concerning the Legal Aspects of Lake Skadar Protection.

“The illegal activities are still evident in Skadar Lake, and addressing them is a very complex task. One of our conclusions is that apart from the institutional capacity building we need to mobilize the local community. People want to be involved in the decision making processes related to the use of natural resources they are depending on, and they are ready to take a more active role against illegal activities counting on a stronger institutional support. Therefore we hope that the prepared Manual Concerning the Legal Aspects of Lake Skadar Protection will serve as a tool for the improved protection, and strengthening the community engagement in the planning and resource management,” said Nataša Kovačević, Director of NGO Green Home.

Capacity building for management planning, and improving transboundary cooperation was a backbone activity of the project.  All the achieved results have contributed to law enforcement, increased participation of civil society organizations in monitoring and management of protected area, and youth education on nature values and importance.

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