Testing project sustainability under climate change and transboundary scenarios

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The politics of transboundary water

According to reports submitted to the UN, about 50% of the land on Earth (excluding Antarctica) is located in internationally shared water catchments and about 40% of the world’s population lives in these areas. As far as river basins are concerned, it is estimated that there are more than 200 transboundary river basins world wide (Ganoulis et al., 2003).
As for the South Eastern Europe region (Fig. 5), prior to 1992 there were only six international river basins, whereas after the collapse of the Yugoslav Federation, the number of internationally shared river basins in the area more than doubled. In fact nowadays there are fourteen (14) internationally shared river basins as well as four transboundary lake basins (Ganoulis et al., 2006).
In Greece the issue of the internationally shared waters is of great importance since the majority of the river basins which are located in the northern part of the country have transboundary nature. More particularly, Greece is the downstream country in 4 river basins: the Vardar/Axios river basin shared with F.Y.R. of Macedonia, the Struma/Strymon and the Mesta/Nestos river basins shared with Bulgaria and the Maritza/Evros/Ergene river basin shared among Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece.
Thus, for Greece the contracting of bilateral agreements on the management of the water resources with the upstream countries is a highly priority issue in order to ensure adequate river flow regimes on its territory.
Currently, although Greece has tried to set official legislative frameworks with the neighboring countries for the management of the transboundary waters, the only ratified bilateral treaty being the one signed by Greece and Bulgaria which concerns the Mesta/Nestos River basin.

Water legislation and international supporting programs

Both Bulgaria and Greece are managing theirs river basins under a series of supranational standards either international or European in scope. The most important legislations which both countries have ratified are: the Convention of the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) and the European Union Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC. The Water Convention is intended to strengthen national measures for the protection and ecologically sound management of transboundary surface water and groundwater. The so-called Helsinki Convention establishes the cooperation between the country members of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for an integrated approach in the scope of sustainable development. It was signed on behalf of the European Community in Helsinki in March 1992 and approved by the Council Decision 95/308/EC. The text obligates the parties to prevent, control and reduce water pollution from point and non-point sources and includes provisions for monitoring, research and development, consultations,
warning and alarm systems, mutual assistance, institutional arrangements, and the exchange
and protection of information, as well as public access to information. Moreover, the text strengthens the cooperation on bilateral or multilateral levels for the conservation of water resources and environmental protection. The Helsinki rules introduced the concept of “equitable utilization” of the transboundary waters taking into account activities which ar likely to cause “transboundary impact”. Greece signed the agreement in 1996 after Bulgaria which signed it back in 1992.
The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) sets standards that EU member states must follow in terms of water quality protection and sustainable management of water resources. It puts the emphasis on the management at river basin level and recommends an equitable water pricing based on a comprehensive cost-benefits analysis including a full valuation of environmental impacts. In addition, the WFD promotes the participation of the public in the decision making procedures. It was adopted as Greek legislation in 2003 (Law 3199/9-12-2003) and as Bulgarian legislation in 2000. Since then, the management of the Mesta River basin in Bulgaria is under the authority of the West Aegean Sea Basin District and in Greece, the Nestos river basin in managed by the Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace.
Various international and European programs are also supporting efforts by both countries to cooperate in research and development projects aimed at a better joint understanding of their shared waters. For example, the International Network of Water-Environment Centres for the
Balkans (INWEB) is a UNESCO chair which has been created in order to promote the cooperation among the Balkans countries in the fields of water resources and environmental protection. For some Balkan basins such as the Mesta-Nestos basin it is also augmented by specific programs such as the joint UNESCO-WMO HELP initiative in order to create a new approach to integrated catchment management through the creation of a framework for water law and policy experts, water resource managers and water scientists to work together on water-related problems. Additionally, both nations have enlisted extensive areas of the mountainous part of the basin as well as the natural wetlands of the delta part into International environmental programs such as RAMSAR or European environmental programs such as NATURA 2000.
At the European level various joint initiatives are funded by the PHARE and INTERREG programs. The aim of these programs is to improve the economic and social cooperation at the regional level. For example, since 1997 the Euroregion Nestos-Mesta has been formed with the help of an INTERREG II program. It is an initiative which coordinates cross border activities between the town of Drama in Greece and eight Bulgarian municipalities under the umbrella of Blagoevgrad. On the other hand, Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development (EESD) Programs funded by the EU such as TRANSCAT (Integrated Water Management of TRANSboundary CATchments) project (2003-2006) aim at promoting an operative and integrated comprehensive Decision Support System (DSS) for the Mesta/Nestos river basin.

The Mesta-Nestos river basin bilateral treaty

Cooperation efforts between Greece and Bulgaria in the field of shared water resources have a long history. The initial agreement concerning the Mesta/Nestos River basin was signed in 1964 and only after trial and effort and political negotiations which lasted more than thirty years did the two parties conclude in the bilateral treaty of 1995. The historical timeline of the agreements and protocols which have been signed are the following:
• the “Agreement on Cooperation between the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Greece concerning the utilization of the waters of the rivers crossing the two countries” signed in Athens on July 9th, 1964 (Legislative Decree 4393/1964, Official Gazette 193/A/4-11-64);
• the “Agreement for the Establishment of the Greek Bulgarian Committee for cooperation in the fields of electric energy and the utilization of the waters of the rivers crossing the two countries” signed in Sofia on July 12th, 1971 (Legislative Decree 366/1976, OG 160/Α/25-6-1976);
• an “Aide-Memoire” signed by the Deputy Ministers of the Environment of Bulgaria and Greece in 1991 concerning a project for “Monitoring of water quantity and quality of the rivers Maritza/Evros, Mesta/Nestos and Strouma/Strymonas (OG 161/Α/30-10-1991);
• the “Agreement between the Government of the Hellenic Republic and the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria for the Waters of River Nestos” signed in Sofia on December 22nd, 1995 (Law
2402/1996, OG 98/A/4-6-1996);
• the “Memorandum of Understanding in the field of Environment and Sustainable Development” signed by the Greek and Bulgarian Ministers of Environment on November 1st, 2002 (Law 3367/4-7-2005). This text refers to the European Union Water Directive 2000/60/EC as a common framework for the management of the transboundary waters.
The original text of bilateral agreement between Bulgaria and Greece for the waters of River Nestos published in the Official Gazette of the Hellenic Republic is presented in Annex I. It consists of eight articles taking into consideration both quantitative and qualitative issues as follows:
• The amount water flowing into the Greek part of the basin is determined as a percentage of the mean annual runoff in the Bulgarian part of the watershed. This mean annual runoff is estimated at 1.5 billions m3 per year on the basis of historical data gathered from 1935 until 1970. The percentage of the water inflow is fixed at 29% of the Bulgarian side runoff. The mean annual runoff should be reestimated every seven years by a common Hydro-Economy committee.
• In case of an increase of inflow into the Greek part of the basin above the 29% level, Bulgaria is not entitled to receive compensation.
• The two parties are obligated to exchange data about the quality and the quantity of the water from both sides of the border. Furthermore, information and data should be exchanged in case of hydraulic works which may affect the watercourses as well as the quality of the water.
• The two parties are obligated to implement all necessary measures which should improve the waters’ quality status and sustain the balance of the river’s ecosystem. The criteria used for monitoring the water quality, the placement of the monitoring stations, the frequency of measurements and the method of analysis of the samples should coincide with the water quality standards of the European legislation.
• A joint Hydro-Economy committee should be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the agreement.
• The duration of the agreement is for 35 years and it should be enforced following the date of its ratification by the two countries’ parliaments.
• One year before the expiration of the agreement, the two parties are committed to re-negotiate a new cooperation agreement.
• The Hydro-Economy committee is responsible for solving any potential disagreements or misinterpretations related to the implementation of the agreement. If the committee is not able to resolve a potential disagreement, the matter should be forwarded to a governmental level in both countries.
It is worth noting the reactions of the public opinion about the bilateral agreement as it was reported in the press. The agreement was ratified by the Greek parliament on May 29, 1996 and was considered a signficant diplomatic success which would set the stage for further amelioration of the relationships between the two neighboring countries. However, because the River Nestos agreement was signed at the same time as an agreement related to the opening of three new cross-border passages, the majority of the Greek press focused on the latter subject. The ratification of the agreement by the Bulgarian parliament took place on March 28, 1996. It was coupled with the reaction of the opposition party which refused its endorsement and accused the government of betraying national interest by agreeing to deprive the local Bulgarian communities of their needed water. Thus, the attitude of the Bulgarian national press was divided on the subject.

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The deficiencies of the bilateral treaty

Unfortunately the ratification of the bilateral treaty by Bulgaria and Greece was not a panacea to the problems related to the management of the Mesta/Nestos River. In particular, as the agreement did not properly delineate the limits of the Mesta/Nestos river watershed, it left unclear whether the 29 % of the water assigned to Greece would correspond to the flow of the main river course (i.e., the Mesta) or if it should apply to the whole runoff gathered in the watershed upstream from the border with Greece. In particular, the agreement does not explicitly include the Dospat River one of the main tributaries of the Nestos River which joins the main course after it has entered Greek territory. The Dospat course is dammed and most of its waters are diverted toward the Maritza river basin.
It is also worth noting that although the agreement refers to measures aimed at the sustainability of the ecosystems, no precaution has since been taken in order to define alternative scenarios in case of extreme phenomena such as floods and droughts (Mylopoulos Y. et al.,. 2004) Furthermore, since the ratification of the agreement in 1996, the Hydro-Economy committee has never been active. Although it should have been responsible for the updating of the original mean annual water runoff estimation at 1.5 billions m3 per year, the committee ignored a reported decrease of the river runoff of 600 million m3 per year (Ganoulis J. et al., 2007) In addition, the exchange of data between the two countries relative to the waters’ quality and quantity is left problematic although it could improve in the future as both countries as EU members are committed to the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Table of contents :

I-1 – The physiographic features of the Mesta-Nestos basin
I-2 – Economic activities and water usage in the area
I-3 – The water quality status
I-4 – The politics of transboundary water
I-5 – Planning for the Temenos dam project
II-1 – Hydrology models
II-1-1 – Mathematical modeling of river basin hydrology
II-1-2 – HEC-HMS, an example of lumped river basin flow model
II-1-3 – The MODSUR distributed hydrology model
II-2 – Dam simulation
II-2-1 – Hydroelectric production and hydropower plants
II-2-2 – Dam simulation
II-3 – Climate models
II-3-1 – Climate change concepts
II-3-3 – Global climate models
II-3-4 – The simulation of local climate change
II-3-5 – Existing climate change studies in the area of investigation
III-1 – Hydrology data management
III-1-1 – Historical evolution of hydrology data management
III-1-2 – The HEC-DSS hydrologic database
III-2 – Mapping river basin parameters
III-2-1 – Mapping activities in hydrology
III-2-2 – Geographical Information Systems in hydrology
III-3 – Data structuring for models
III-3-1 – Grid data structures
III-3-2 – Terrain modeling for hydrology
III-3-3 – Quadtree grid in the MODSUR hydrology model
III-4 – The physical characteristics of the Mesta/Nestos basin
III-4-1 – Geology and pedology of the basin
III-4-2 – Hydrology characteristics
III-4-3 – Local climatology
III-5 – The Mesta-Nestos MODSUR model implementation
III-5-1 – Building the MODSUR grid from a DTM
III-5-2 – The integration of rain data
III-5-3 – The determination of PET parameters
III-5-4 – The calibration of the MODSUR “production functions”
III-5-5 – Snow cover simulation in the upper mountain part
II-5-6 – Final calibration run and interface with HEC-ResSim
III-6 – Modeling the Nestos dams complex with HEC-ResSim
III-6-1 – The Nestos watershed network setup
II-6-2 – The parameterization of the Nestos hydropower dams
III-6-3 – HEC-ResSim parameters for the Toxotes irrigation dam
III-7 – The implementation of the climate change scenarios
III-7-1 – Building baseline scenarios based on past climate
III-7-2 – Using CLM-MODSUR coupling for future scenarios
IV-1 – The financing of dam projects
IV-1-1 – Dam projects analysis and financing
IV-1-2 – The concept of Net Present Value (NPV)
IV-1-3 – Risks evaluation attached to project financing – The classical approach
IV-1-4 – Climate change risks to hydropower or irrigation projects
IV-2 – The sustainability factors of the Temenos project
IV-2-1 – The concept of sustainability
IV-2-2 – The regional conditions in electricity production and pricing
IV-2-3 – The local agriculture economics parameters
IV-2-4 – Protecting and valuing the lower Nestos river environment
IV-3 – Outcomes of the Temenos project evaluation
IV-3-1 – A possible multi-purpose financing structure
IV-3-2 – Evaluation of the Temenos project sustainability
IV-3-3 – Testing project sustainability under climate change and transboundary scenarios
IV-4 – Deciding within the complexity of climate change
IV-4-1 – The impact of transboundary management hypotheses
IV-4-2 – Agriculture versus electricity power capacities
IV-4-3 Environmental impact scenarios
IV-4-4 Multicriteria decision analysis, a possible solution to conflicts of interest


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