22.11.2006 -

“Living Volga” Programme

© UNESCO/Coca-Cola HBC Eurasia

UNESCO/Coca-Cola HBC Eurasia partnership programme “Living Volga” aims to foster better awareness and valuation of biodiversity resources of Volga water and wetlands ecosystems and understanding of the principles of sustainable development amongst local authorities and communities.

 

 

In Brief

The UNESCO Moscow Office and Coca-Cola HBC Eurasia joined efforts in 2006 to implement the “Living Volga” programme. The partners have since been empowering local communities within the Volga basin to plan and manage the river catchment area on a sustainable basis and to responsively consider water as a resource through an enhancement of environmental awareness. In this context, a series of activities to support the protection and sustainable use of the Volga River ecosystem is ongoing.

The programme matches one of the priorities of the UNESCO Natural Sciences Sector, namely promoting the sustainable management and conservation of freshwater, terrestrial resources and biodiversity. In addition it is of special importance within the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” (2005-2015) and the UN Decade “Education for Sustainable Development” (2005-2014).

The Ecosystem

The Volga River is the largest river system in Europe. It springs in the northwest of Moscow and flows for 3,700 km towards the Caspian Sea, into which the Volga alone is responsible for approximately 80% of total river discharge. It is navigable for about 2,600 km, and has more than 200 sizable tributaries, including the Oka, the Samara, the Kama and the Vetluga.

Essential problems for the conservation and sustainable use of the Volga wetlands include: the insufficient understanding of the relevance of the Volga wetlands; the lack of preservation efforts from governmental, private, and public organizations, but also from the local population; deficient training of professional environmentalists, teachers and educators; and the inexistence of joint action and coordination of the activities towards conservation among all these interest groups.

Fronts of action

Positive changes in attitudes towards water and perception of it as a highly valuable resource can be achieved through intensive environmental education and training activities. Three main fronts of action in order to foster such changes were thus identified in the framework of the “Living Volga” programme.

The first front of action involves fostering interactions with society, which is achieved through dissemination of knowledge of the value of the Lower Volga water and wetlands ecosystems for different population segments.

Furthermore, producing education and awareness materials and establishing effective dissemination mechanisms for them constituted the second identified front of action.

Finally, the third front of action consisted of engaging local authorities and industries so as to draw their attention to environmental problems of water and wetlands ecosystems and therefore increase their contribution to the sustainable development of the Volga basin area.

Main Project Outcomes

Volga Day

Within the “Living Volga” efforts 20 May was inscribed in the international ecological calendar as the annual Volga Day with the purpose to raise the public awareness on problems of conservation of the Volga River ecosystem and of sustainable use of its resources. It is a regional festival in honor of the great river and its vital role in providing water, food, power, recreation and life. The celebration also stresses the importance of joint action among different stakeholders in addressing the environmental challenges faced by this ecosystem.

The Volga Day, first commemorated in 2008 in Nizhny Novgorod, and expanded in 2009 to Astrakhan, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Volgograd. The tradition of celebrating 20 May as the Volga Day will go on. In 2010 the celebration will include both entertainment events and scientific seminars and meeting dedicated to ecohydrological issues and management of biosphere reserves, situated in the Volga basin.

Volga Materials

In the framework of the programme the group of experts developed informational and methodological materials intending to raise public awareness on the great value of the Volga wetlands. The first edition of such materials was devoted to the Lower Volga and included among others the brochures “Let’s save the Lower Volga wetlands together!” and “Training strategy and programmes for raising awareness on the Lower Volga wetlands”.

These outputs were used as a basis for the second generation of the Volga materials – the Volga Kits. Two types of Volga Kits were developed by specialists from environmental and nature protection organizations based on ecological and educational work experience of natural reserves and national parks.

The “Education” Kit targeted educational organizations, schoolchildren and youth, whereas the “Awareness” Kit was addressed to local private, non-governmental and governmental organizations, the general public and mass media.

The Volga Kits strongly promote the principles of sustainable development, and contain: strategies and plans for raising public awareness on the value of the Volga River, brochures on the ecological situation of the Volga basin; a press-kit; leaflets for various target groups; a map of its biosphere reserves and World Heritage sites; and sets of postcards and posters on local species of fauna and flora.

Meetings with and among decision-makers

To bring continuity to the programme, it is imperative to sensitize decision-makers by conducting meetings in which the socio-economic benefits of sustainable management of wetlands are clarified and discussed.

One of such meetings was the workshop on “Involvement of governmental, private and public organizations in addressing the issues of conservation of the Lower Volga wetlands”, during which the working group “Union for Conservation of the Lower Volga Heritage” was established.

In addition, round tables dedicated to the issue of sustainable management of the Volga basin resources are held on a regular basis during the Volga Day.

By bringing together civil society, local authorities, educators, tourism and industry representatives, the “Living Volga” project fully achieves the goal of promoting an all-encompassing cooperation in order to make sustainable development a reality in the Volga basin.

 

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