Transboundary protected areas and opportunities for cooperation
One of the way of the implementation of ecological approach into social-economic realities as well as EcoNet development is development of transboundary protected area (TBPAs). IUCN defines a transboundary protected area as “an areas of land and/or sea that straddles one or more boundaries between states, sub-national units such as provinces and regions, autonomous areas and/or areas beyond the limits of national sovereignty or jurisdiction, whose constituent parts are especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biodiversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed co-operatively through legal or other effective means”. In addition, a network of coordinated national protected areas belonging to more than one country may be considered TBPAs, if these protected areas share common objectives and their management is harmonized. Particular attention is paid to proper organization of transboundary protected areas because national borders hamper the efficient conservation and management of natural areas crossing one or more borders, and ecosystems and species do not always confirm to political boundaries.
In ninetieth of the past century, international cooperation in the sphere of establishment of the World system of transboundary protected areas as components of continental ecological networks substantially livened up. Each country is facing the challenge, irrespective of the level of economic development, environmental condition, constitutional structures or cultural tradition. The challenge is to develop the effective and cost-efficient tools, instruments, mechanisms and procedures to induce economic sectors to protect the environment and use natural resources eco-sustainably while, simultaneously, promoting economic and social development, to keep green world in a good state of art. As the focus of conservation has moved towards landscape-scale and ecosystem approaches, and recognition of the importance of ecological corridors and connectivity, interest in the practical conservation benefits of transboundary protected areas has increased. As of 2001, there were at least 169 complexes of two or more adjoining protected areas divided by international boundaries, involving a total of 667 protected areas representing 113 countries. Levels of formalization and cooperation vary, with some already formally established as transboundary areas, but all with potential to become formal TBPAs.
TBPAs may be established through high-level political initiatives of governments, local efforts on the ground (for example by protected area staff), or by intervention of the third parties such as NGOs, UN and academic institutions, or international conventions. TBPAs may be formally connected through legislation, but may also be separate protected areas under cooperative management arrangements based on local agreements, without formal merging of the protected areas. In some cases, transboundary “peace parks” have been established as a strategy for reconciliation in areas of recent conflict or disaster.
TBPAs are valuable in that they can combine and coordinate biodiversity conservation efforts and the conservation of ecological services at a scale that is larger than what can be accomplished by the constituent protected areas in isolation. Some important benefits of TBPAs are:
enhancing conservation of ecoregions, landscapes, ecosystems and species;
promoting a holistic approach with respect to zones and biomes;
facilitating the management of transboundary natural resources;
promoting international cooperation at different levels and in different for a;
attracting additional financing from international sources;
enhancing commitment from partners on regional and global scales;
facilitating more effective research;
bringing economic benefits to local and national economies; and
ensuring better cross-border control of problems such as fire, disease, biological invasion, poaching, marine pollution and smuggling.
The Ukrainian Government, scientific and educational sectors and environmental community consider harmonization of the Ukrainian environmental legislation with the European one as an extremely important step towards integration to Europe. There are many longstanding instances worldwide of cooperation between two or more adjoining protected areas divided by international boundaries. Foundation of the regional Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathian Region (Carpathian Convention) could serve as good example of a successful attempt to co-operate in solving common environmental problems at a regional level.
Carpathians case (successful story)
The Carpathian mountains are mainly located in the territories of eight European countries: Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Serbia and Montenegro. Almost all these countries faced similar environmental problems of the Carpathians, or economic activities of one or another country may result in ecological disruption in other states. Mountain ecosystems, which can be viewed as preserves of the natural biological diversity having significant economic values, are extremely sensitive to any anthropogenic intervention or impact, which disrupt the unstable ecological balance and results in adverse and destructive processes. The whole Carpathian region, by its physiographic, geomorphologic, hydrological and ecological characteristics, represents a uniform, natural system.
Because of their geographic position, the Carpathian mountains are extremely important for Central Europe from social, economic, resource, climatic, hydrological and ecological viewpoints. The population of the whole Carpathian region is more than 25 million people. The Carpathian Mountains are among the last large mountain ecosystems of Europe, which were preserved almost entirely in their natural conditions. This mountain system is a hotspot of the richest European biological and landscape diversity. Its territory serves as a habitat for more than half of the whole biodiversity of Central Europe. The largest areas of European virgin forests are preserved there; its biodiversity, as well as relief and landscape diversity, is extremely rich. There are the main woodland areas, which support the ecological balance, improve the climate, and together with mountain ranges, protect the sub-Carpathian South of Europe from cold winds.
Several of the largest and cleanest European rivers are formed in the Carpathian mountains: Tisza, Dnister (Nistry), Prut, Wisla (Vistula) and Danube (in part). Hydrological conditions of the area greatly depend on its vegetation, mainly forests, which cover catchments areas.
The Carpathians are also the home of many relict and endemic species of the natural flora and fauna of Central Europe. Thus, the Carpathian Mountains is related to the Pan-European natural heritage.
It should be taken into account that most of mountain territories (over 90%) are slopes. Thus, economic activities in the region should be based on uniform, mutually coordinated principles and approaches; should consider the slightest opportunities for maintaining sustainable management of nature and for avoiding negative consequences of exploitation of mountain resources. At the same time, political borders divide the Carpathian Mountains into several distinct parts. In each of these parts, economic activities are conducted according to a level of economic development of each country and the level of its existing environmental legislation.
The present time anthropogenic pressure in the region reached its critical limits. Because of progressing destruction of forests, poaching, industrial pollution, intensification of agriculture, development of tourism, expansion of region’s transport network and other adverse factors of economic activities, we observe now serious threats to the unique diversity of the Carpathians and disruption of the whole mountain ecosystem. The situation became further complicated as there was not effective legal mechanism for uniting efforts of all Carpathian countries with the purpose of strengthening the co-operation in the field of preservation and sustainable use of the Carpathians.
Due to the efforts of the certain countries and the international organizations, including those working under auspice of the United Nations and the Council of Europe, a significant progress was achieved during the last decade in solving the problems of environmental management in the Carpathians. Some Carpathian countries have signed bilateral and multilateral agreements on concerted actions for improving the general environmental situation and sustainable nature management in the region. Besides, in some Carpathian countries (including Ukraine) environmental projects were implemented for solving specific problems.
Taking into account that most of Carpathian countries at present have their economy in transition, and that the general economic situation in the region has to be improved, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) recently outlined the framework for another important project aimed at preservation of natural resources of the Carpathian region. This idea of a regional transboundary project uniting scientific, public and governmental sectors of the Carpathian countries for funding joint solutions for the issues of preservation and improvement of natural resources of the Carpathians was born in Ukraine several years ago. The project has a preliminary title “Preserving the “Green heart” of Europe”.
However, all these efforts did not solve the whole set of existing problems. The ecosystem of the Carpathian Mountains was still maintained in a greatly uncoordinated way, and the unstable and vulnerable ecological balance (which is already distributed by many factors and impacts) cannot be settled at the global level. It may be mention in this connection lack of coordination in actions of neighboring countries, insufficient exchange of information, many other factors. Considering that situation, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Ukraine (in 2001) made considerable efforts in searching for possible ways to a better coordination of economic activities and environmental management in the whole Carpathian region. The idea was supported at different levels: there is already an urgent need of uniting the efforts of Carpathian countries in the noble case of preservation of this Central European mountain system and an absolute must of preserving biodiversity and developing sustainable environmental management in the Carpathian Mountains. There were consultations, negotiations and discussions with participation of experts and the top government officials of Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, UNEP/ROE, GEF. Due to these actions, the idea has arisen of developing and signing the Carpathian Convention which Serbia and Montenegro also has decided to join. Ukraine’s proposals were further developed and advanced by UNEP, which through its Regional Office for Europe (ROE) provided organizational, logistic and expert support. UNEP/ROE also agreed to act as interim Secretariat of the Convention until the Permanent Secretariat is created. Substantial support was also provided by Italy, Austria, Lichtenstein, World Wild Fund.
The Convention includes requirements and provisions of the Convention on Biodiversity, the Pan-European Bio- and Landscape Diversity Strategy, multilateral cooperation defined in Article 13 (vulnerable ecosystems) of the Agenda 21, the Programs of Sustainable Development of Mountain Regions, the Green Backbone of Central and East Europe Conference (1998), developments of the Pan-European EcoNet in Central and East Europe (preservation of natural and cultural heritage of the Carpathian Mountains), the European Landscape Convention as well as some others. In parallel to that, other relevant stakeholders, international organizations and funds (UNEP, UNDP, WB, GEF, WWF, IUCN, Carpathian foundation, Foundation for Development of the Carpathian region, the Alpine Convention and other institutions) were invited to cooperation.
The Parties themselves define the range and borders of areas of national importance, as well as issues to be included in the Convention. In line with that, the areas are defined, which should be integrally and obligatory covered by the Convention for its large-scale success. Identification of such areas was based on geographical, geomorphologic and hydrological analyses and scientific research.
Signing of the Carpathian Convention at the Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” in Kyiv (May, 2003) became a logic culmination of the initiative of Ukraine in improving preservation and sustainable use of the “Green heart” of Europe.