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Experts from Belarus and Lithuania agree to strengthen technical cooperation on shared water resources in the Neman River Basin

Published: 26 June 2014

On 19 and 20 June 2014, experts and representatives from environmental authorities in Belarus, Lithuania and the Kaliningrad oblast of the Russian Federation met in Vilnius to discuss the results of the draft strategic framework for basin adaptation in the Neman Basin, as well as options for future cooperation in the shared basin. The meeting was hosted by the Lithuanian Ministry of Environment in the framework of an international process on river basin management and climate change adaptation led by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Belarus.

The participants agreed that climate change has tangible consequences on water resources in the Neman Basin requiring action at the basin level. The participants expressed the need and discussed a possible way forward to strengthen transboundary cooperation in the basin. The way forward includes expanding the scope of technical cooperation in the basin, in particular between Lithuania and Belarus, improving cross-border exchange of information, for instance to support river basin management planning in Lithuania with Belarussian inputs, and to continue exploring opportunities for a basin-level policy instrument for the Neman Basin. The European Commission representative expressed its interest in and support for the process, including European Union (EU) cooperation with Belarus bringing together more closely EU- and non-EU countries in the basin.

Opening the meeting, the Lithuanian Vice-Minister for the Environment in a speech read out by the Lithuanian Water Director Dalius Krinickas remarked that problems related to climate change could not be solved by the efforts of individual countries, stressing that “the cooperation of the whole international community is necessary”. In that connection, he noted that the project on river basin management and climate change adaptation in the Nemunas Basin was an “excellent example of transboundary cooperation in tackling problems of water resources and water quality at the basin level.” Moreover, the Vice-Minister expressed his wish that dialogues on the Neman Basin will become regular. 

Note to editors

The Neman Basin conference was organized as part of the project, “River basin management and climate change adaptation in the Neman River Basin”, which is carried out by UNECE and UNDP Belarus in the framework of the Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC).

The project was launched in 2011 and is funded by Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, partly in the framework of ENVSEC. It is one of the pilot projects on climate change adaptation in transboundary basins under the UNECE Water Convention (see http://www1.unece.org/ehlm/platform/display/ClimateChange/). The overall objective of the project is to improve integrated river basin management and transboundary cooperation in times of a changing climate in the Neman River Basin. The project aims to strengthen the capacity of the countries sharing the Neman River to adapt to climate change by supporting dialogue and cooperation on the necessary steps to design an adaptation strategy in the transboundary context. It aims to reach a common understanding on future water availability and water use, taking into account possible climate change impacts.

The project has, for the first time, enabled modelling and forecasting of climatic and hydrological characteristics for the entire transboundary Neman River Basin. It has also resulted in a strategic framework for basin adaptation, similar to a transboundary adaptation strategy.

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