Step-by-step, international professional workshop for river saving
At 22nd June 2022., at the building of the Directorate of Water Management at the Middle Tisza (KÖTIVIZIG) the 7th National Tisza Roundtable was held within the framework of the INTERREG DTP Tid(y)UP Project. The event, organized by the Naturefilm.eu and the Association of Environmental Enterprises the progress was made since the last year was enumerated and the possible directions of the further steps and actions was discussed. A great success, that several government offices and municipalities showed up at the conference, since, as a result of the direct discussions, the organisers hope to see further cooperation on the way towards the goals set.
The river-saving Plastic Cup was started by the Naturefilm.eu 10 years ago and it has grown from a community-based conservation project to an example of an international good practice.
The Association of Environmental Enterprises has been working for 30 years for the preservation and protection of our environmental resources, and therefore helps to achieve the goals of the Plastic Cup with its professional network and knowledge. The two organisations have been cooperating for years with the Hungarian authorities and decision-makers in the decontamination of the Tisza River, implementing international projects to preserve the purity of our living waters and trying to help the development of waste management in the countries of the upper Tisza region by supporting companies and providing technology and knowledge transfer.
István Láng, Director General of the Directorate General of National Water Management, welcomed the participants, acknowledging the efforts and achievements of the contributors, which are exemplary for all concerned and stakeholders. According to his words, the most important task is to prevent waste generation and to raise awareness on this issue, in which the cooperation with the organisers is excellent. He said, as regards the problems, that we must prepare leaching, the impact of water accumulating in abandoned mines as a consequence of climate change, the effectiveness of wastewater treatment also affects rivers, and the decontamination works of rivers and lakes also mean additional efforts on water management. Planning and development are ongoing to address these, but we need to continue to work together to address them. He stressed the importance of personal relationships and the fact that this task, which requires enormous energy, is carried out voluntarily and with enthusiasm by those, who are aware that they are doing it for the river and for the communities.
Attila Lovas, Director of the Directorate of Water Management at the Middle Tisza (KÖTIVIZIG), then spoke about the environmental and water management related importance of the Kisköre dam, especially in times of drought and considering the importance of guaranteeing water levels. It is regrettable that they have to handle 10,000 tonnes of waste instead of the previous 10 tonnes. Since 2019, they have been working with the Plastic Cup team, so less waste is going into the river and landfill, and the savings, which can be used for professional tasks, are significant.
The Board's tasks have been expanded and more attention should be paid to tourism, as the river, as a tourist attraction, is a potential source of jobs.
Diána Heilmann, technical advisor of the Danube Region Strategy's priority area "Water Quality", spoke about the projects (JoinTisza, Tid(y)Up) and further application opportunities in the Tisza sub-basin, drawing attention to the prevention of plastic pollution, which is based on awareness raising and proper selective waste collection. Grants also cover the impacts of pollution, through conferences, workshops, publications and technical materials, which should continue. She stressed the importance of protection of the drinking water base everywhere from microplastics and the cooperation of the public administrations and NGOs in the implementation of river basin management plans.
Gergely Hankó pointed out that the final conference of the Tid(y)Up project will take place on 8-9 November in Budapest, where all project results will be disseminated.
Attila Dávid Molnár, the president of the Naturefilm.eu association, the initiator of the Plastic Cup, started his presentation with a short film about the 3rd Plastic Cup at Lake Tisza, which took place a week before the roundtable discussion, and then he told the story of the 10-year PET Cup, adding personal elements to the report. The 10 years have been full of experiences, successes, setbacks, collaborations, financial difficulties, donations, turning points, innovations, friendships, loves, and have brought floating harbours, PET boat, a stolen boat - and international contacts, publications and many films, which let accompany us through it all. Work continues unabated, preparing for the Tisza River and Bodrog River Plastic Cups. The Naturefilm.eu association has also taken on related activities to ensure the success of the task, extending its activities to research, plastic waste detection, communication, harmonisation of legislation, digitalisation, including the development of a river rescue manual for partner organisations in neighbouring countries. And the Mobile Plastic Workshop (MüMü) offers lessons in experiential education at home and abroad, to prevent waste from being generated and, if it has been arisen, to recycle it into the economic cycle.
In order to this, a River Rescue Centre has been set up here in Kisköre, and he invited participants to visit as part of the afternoon programme.
Dr. Szabolcs Szanyi, President of the Papilio Environmental Association (Nagydobrony, Ukraine) dazzled the audience with the diversity of the flora and fauna of the Satu Mare plain, with the variety of species, and then with pictures of the 3-4 m thick layer of waste covering the 7 m deep riverbed of the Latorca river. The ecological disaster is happening as waste is piling up on the area, and if there is no one to spot it and clean it up, it will mean the end of diversity. The Association is working on this, involving local authorities, NGOs and the public - but it is still not enough. Effective partnership, regulation and funding are needed to create waste management, to raise awareness - and all this needs to be done continuously. All help is welcome.
Gergely Hankó added his personal experiences, highlighting the launch of several innovations, which were halted by the war. Last year, beacon devices in bottles were floated into the rivers to follow the path of waste and detect accumulation sites, which also means a threat to water management structures. Cooperation has now been extended, includes Austrian partners, as almost everyone is affected by this problem. He stressed the importance of dialogue and the involvement of relevant groups, communities and authorities in working as effectively as possible, including at international level. It can be said that 60-70% of the waste highlighted from the Tisza can be keep in the circulation, the environmental industry has been involved into this waste stream, but there is a continuous expansion, as the potential for waste recovery is still untapped in many cases (e.g. kayak and utensils made from caps). He said that elements of the Waste Reduction Toolkit must be further developed, updated and shared, so that they will be available on the websites in "Tisza languages". This is also served by the relating projects (Tid(y)Up, “5 Countries 1 River”, Call-Action, Zero Waste Tisza River 2.0). More attention and systemic thinking is needed on related research and development, but this requires adequate funding and regulation. The Association is also taking steps to this end, as expertise and technology alone are not enough.
Sándor Pásztor, advisor to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forestry of Romania, gave a presentation on water developments in Romania, which the participants could follow on a map. Water scarcity is also a major problem in Romania, so the creation of reservoirs, dredging and reopening of backwaters and revitalisation of water bodies are on the agenda. In addition to the construction of emergency reservoirs, rehabilitation of reservoir areas, water conservation, reinforcement of embankments, biodiversity conservation are also a major concern, especially in the view of the expected impacts of climate change and the fact that water is a tourist attraction everywhere.
For example, cycle paths will be created on the embankments to provide tourists an environmentally friendly way to reach the water's edge.
Presentations were followed by the Q&A session, like for example, who funds the costs of waste management for the water sector? István Láng answered that they do not have a special budget for this, they pay for it from the money dedicated to damage control, and that is why the PET Cup is a great help for them, because they can use their resources for other things.
Károlyné Bedő, as a member of the 5 Countries 1 project, said that in Hungary, teacher competences already include environmental education. In other (concerned) countries this is not the case, although action could be taken at the root of the problem, in the schools. He offered to the representatives of the partner countries, if they saw the opportunity, to provide technical material to help the competent bodies to introduce this competence into their education systems, which could also help to raise awareness and prevent waste.
Szabolcs Szanyi said that Ukraine has adopted a law on waste, which opens the way for education, and since they have the possibility to make submissions to the Ukrainian authorities on this issue, they will do so.
Sándor Fülöp, President of the EMLA Environmental Management and Law Association, gave a presentation on the rights of the rivers, presenting the practices of some countries (USA, Bolivia, India, New Zealand, etc.). The river, as a legal entity, is then not the object but the subject of the law. It is thus entitled to protection. The question is who acts on behalf of a body of water or a natural landscape, with the appropriate authority. The river, as a living thing, must and can be protected, because it can be the victim of crime (pollution, overuse), and therefore criminal law can also have a role here. Tisza river could also have a legal personality if there were someone to act on behalf of the Tisza, the terms and conditions of which would be laid down in an international treaty between the parties concerned, guaranteeing the protection of the river, with the possibility of sanctions. Let's think about which nations value their waters and rivers more, even without thinking in legal formulas. They know that it gives life, their life.
Kitti Dubniczki, Director of the Central European Support Service for Cross-border Initiatives, gave a presentation on cross-border environmental problems and ways to address them, and on the possibility of funding. Among others, she said that environmental elements (rivers, air, etc.) do not know geographical and political borders. It is a common interest and duty to protect them, for which various projects and tenders provide funding.
After the presentations reflection on national and local opportunities, ideas and proposals were formulated in groups.
Thinking together and finding solutions - Interactive brainstorming on 2 themes
The afternoon session of the conference was facilitated using the World Café method, which gave participants the opportunity to share their ideas and suggestions on several topics in a café setting, in an informal discussion.
The discussion was structured around the following questions:
1. National plans
What can we do at national level to keep our rivers clean?
1. What international opportunities do we have to raise the level of river protection?
- Nationalising local practice; internationalising national practice
- A common definition would be important
- Preparing for disasters
- Involving of the majorities’ NGOs
- Involving NGOs in flood negotiations
- Involve water management directorates in lobbying
- Establish an "AMBASSADOR" network of Tisza countries
(Dr. Csaba Kőrösi has been elected President of the UN General Assembly!)
2. How can we work more effectively with the existing infrastructure and public administration network?
- Examine who owns the river waste
- Examine what the infrastructure allows to do
- Set up a COORDINATING ORGANISATION for an autonomous sustainability body at ministry level, independent from the state administration (similar to MNB, Nuclear Energy Agency)
- Setting up a thematic NGO network
- Obligation to pass information back and forth (between central government and local NGOs; similar to the former “KÖTHÁLÓ”)
- This requires legislative amendment
3. What do the upper-flow countries expect from us? What can we offer them?
- Knowledge and technology transfer
- EUR/USD resources and money + state aid, damage repair
- Promotion of international databases, contacts, opportunities
- LOBBI on their behalf
- Creating “value from waste” viewpoint
- Develop legal, regional waste import
4. What financing opportunities do we have?
Kitti Dubniczky (Director of the Central European Support Service for Cross-border Initiatives) gave a detailed presentation on funding opportunities in the morning session. In the Word Café, participants were given a comprehensive presentation on the current funding opportunities available, summarised in the figure below.
2. Regional cooperations
What can we do for the cleanliness of the Tisza river, the Tisza Lake and generally for our water bodies?
1. Who are the key players? Who is active and who should be better involved in the joint work?
- Involving local politicians - they influence decisions
- Local opinion leaders (schools, church, economic elite, media)
- Social media/forums (Facebook group, pub)
2. What are the existing good practices that could be further developed or made systematic?
- Involving land users in waste collection - tour operators, fishermen, harbors
- Placement of collection containers
- Ban littering in internal rules + sanction, requiring simpler procedures
3. How can waste be prevented and reduced in parallel with tourism development?
- Prevent abandonment, while providing local solutions for disposal
- Local/re-use in catering too!
- Promotion of durable packaging
- Setting an example for operators
- Introduction of a 'green' tourism operator certification
The problems and possible solutions are outlined below and will be discussed at next year's Tisza Roundtable.
After the World Café, the participants visited the River Rescue Centre and took a short trip on the “Petényi” boat - made of PET bottles – and from the deck of it they could watch the "blooming of the Tisza", the dance of the may-flies.
The organisers hope that the exchange of up-to-date information and joint thinking will result in more efficient and systematic planning of tasks in the near future, helping the work of environmental organisations and authorities in the upstream countries also.
The final event of the Tid(y)Up project will take place on 8-9 November 2022 in Budapest, at the Budapest University of Technology. Registration will start soon, all interested people warmly wellcome!
The project is implemented through the INTERREG Danube Transnational Programme, with the support of the European Regional Development Fund, co-financed by the European Union and the Hungarian State.
A projekt az INTERREG Duna Transznacionális Programból, az Európai Regionális Fejlesztési Alap támogatásával, az Európai Unió és a Magyar Állam társfinanszírozásával valósul meg.
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