"Wetlands" project launched in Belarus

Mar 1, 2018

Five-year-long UNDP project, with budget of almost $5 million, to help Belarus manage and sustain forest and wetlands eco-systems more economically, while preserving flora and fauna.

The Wetlands project is financed by the Global Environmental Facility and is implemented by UNDP, in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection. Launched in late 2017, it aims to improve environmental legislation, while preventing degradation of waterlogged peatlands. The results of ecological rehabilitation are expected to be evident soon, over an area of more than 10,000 hectares.

The five-year-long “Conservation-Oriented Management of Forests and Wetlands to Achieve Multiple Benefits” (“Wetlands”) project is linked with various state programmes, including those aimed at preserving the habitat of rare and endangered plants and animals, within several specially protected nature territories. Among those covered are the reserves of Srednyaya Pripyat, Naliboksky, Sporovksy and Zvanets, as well as Zhada and Servech. State and private structures are involved within the project, as well as the representatives of the National Academy of Sciences and those from local initiatives.

Local project with the global focus

Wetlands face global and national ecological challenges and need to be carefully nurtured, through improved environmental legislation, sustainable management of forest and wetland eco-systems and the preservation of globally endangered species, such as the European bison, aquatic warblers, and greater spotted eagles.

The Wetlands project focuses on environmental legislation, sustainable management of forest and wetland eco-systems and restoration of globally endangered species. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the UN Development Programme are donors to the project.

Nikolay Svidinsky, the Head of the Department for Biological and Landscape Diversity at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus: "The development of sustainable management of resources is very important for the balance of ecological and economic interests. The “Wetlands” project aims to achieve multiple benefits: from the increase of the population of endangered species to the development of ecological tourism. Moreover, the project is connected with the ‘Belarusian Forest’ programme, with around forty forestries taking part, to help identify precious sections of forest, for special protection".

Igor Tchoulba, Programme Officer, UNDP in Belarus: "Our new project builds on the results of previous initiatives implemented by the UNDP in Belarus, tackling problematic aspects which remain unsettled. The “Wetlands” project is financed by the Global Environmental Facility, which is focused not only on battling climate change and land degradation but aims to preserve sustainable biodiversity. Special accent is placed on ecological benefits and the economic component, to ensure sustainability".

Alexey Artyushevsky, the manager of the “Wetlands” project, UNDP in Belarus: "The major goal of the project is the elaboration of methodology for the sustainable use of natural resources and implementation in practice (for later submission to the Government of the Republic of Belarus). It’s running alongside the “Life” Trans-boundary project, financed by the European Union, which aims to protect aquatic warblers, ensuring the synergy of nature protection activities on an international scale".

The Red Book symbol of Belarus, or how to sustain flora and fauna within the Nalibokskaya Pushcha

The project is focused on improving the habitat of the micro-population of the European bison in the Naliboksky Reserve, through the restoration of forage lands across three hundred hectares. In particular, we’ve developed a programme to exchange individuals between micro-populations, to improve the genetic status of the Naliboksky herds.

Vasily Shakun, the head of the laboratory of population ecology of terrestrial vertebrates and bioresources management: "Long-term threats may lead to the disappearance of the bison. Within the “Wetlands” project, we’re improving and maintaining highly-productive natural forage conditions and ‘binding’ bison to territories with all-year-round green forage, while assessing their genetic potential and aiming for genetic recovery".

Alexander Kozulin, , and the scientific co-ordinator of the “Wetlands” project: Just over a hundred hectares in the Nalibokskaya Pushcha are suitable now for fully-fledged habitation by bison. We want to increase this to over three hundred hectares. We need to sow grasses, and remove bushes, while ensuring that the lands remain in this condition, in a sustainable fashion.

In 2005, Belarus was ranked second worldwide -- after Poland -- for its number of bisons; since 2011, it has taken the lead for the number of these animals living in the wild. The country is implementing a meta-population strategy of preserving the European bison, with ten ‘free-range’ micro-populations established. This has enabled us to reduce threats to the species at the national and global levels. However, lthe ong-term sustainability is another matter. Problems of numbers, territory, genetics and recovery of populations still remain, with the “Wetlands” project aiming to address these issues.

Innovative measures aim to eliminate the most significant threats, with certain habitats coming under focus, to receive protection. The project aims to raise populations of globally endangered aquatic warblers, greater spotted eagles, double snipers and godwits, working in synergy with similar initiatives financed by the EU in Lithuania, Germany and Poland.

Regarding forest and wetlands eco-systems, ecological tourism can be used to raise money to fund sustainable management initiatives, over territories of at least 150,000 hectares. Peatlands are also in focus, to ensure they are efficiently used in sustainable manner. In all, 260,000 hectares are under scrutiny, with individual goals being set for various territories.

Did you know:

Belarus has made a significant contribution to the restoration of the European bison, increasing its number and conducting close studies. In February 2017, the number of bisons in the country totalled 1,615 (or 24.6 percent of the world’s total population) with 1,557 living in the wild (34.8 percent of such the European bisons worldwide).

UNDP Press Office

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