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International water issues
Belarus is party to the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes and under this convention has undertaken substantial activities on the shared transboundary water resources with other countries.
Cooperation in the field of protection and use of transboundary rivers between Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, the Russian Federation and Ukraine has been regulated basing on the following documents:
- Agreement on the Environmental Protection Cooperation (1992) between the Ministry of the Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Forestry of Poland and the State Committee for Ecology of Belarus
- Agreement between Belarus and Ukraine on the Cooperation on Environmental Protection (1994)
- Agreement between Belarus and Lithuania on Cooperation in Environmental Protection (1995).
- Agreement between Belarus and Ukraine on the Joint Use and Protection of Transboundary Waters (2001)
- Agreement between Belarus and the Russian Federation concerning Cooperation in Protection and Rational Use of Transboundary Waters (2002)
- Agreement on inter-institutional cooperation between the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation, Lithuania and Belarus in the field of monitoring and exchange of data on the status of transboundary surface water bodies (2003).
- Draft agreement between Belarus, Latvia and the Russian Federation on the Western Dvina/Daugava river basin, establishing a joint commission (2003). The Latvian government approved the draft but it was not signed in 2003 as the Russian Federation and Belarus postponed the final decision several times due to various reasons. After Latvia joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, any international agreement on water management between an EU Member State and a non-Member State requires the EU as a Contracting Party. Cooperation agreements were on the list of topics to be discussed during high-level meetings of the EU and the Russian Federation; however, this has not led to renewal of the negotiations concerning this agreement.
- Technical Protocol signed between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus and the Ministry of Environment of Lithuania on cooperation in the field of monitoring and exchange of data on the status of transboundary surface water bodies (2008).
In the past decades, several international projects concerning protection and rational management of waters have been implemented in the Bug river basin which is shared between Belarus, Poland and Ukraine. The most important ones including Belarus are:
- The Bug river pilot project on monitoring and assessment of transboundary rivers, established under the UNECE Water Convention (1998-2003)
- Creation of the Polish-Belarusian-Ukrainian Water Policy in the Bug basin – the Neighbourhood Programme Poland-Belarus-Ukraine INTERREG III A – TACIS CBC (2007-2009).
The Science for Peace and Security NATO pilot study project “Sustainable Use and Protection of Groundwater Resources – Transboundary Water Management”, launched in 2006, focuses on development of international cooperation on implementation of water quality monitoring and assessment. It is also a scientific platform for experts from Belarus, Poland and Ukraine as well as from other countries to exchange ideas about water management, with special emphasis on groundwater and its protection. The Bug river basin is one of the main interests of the project (Nalecz, 2010).
The Nemunas River Basin District (RBD) is shared between three EU Member States, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and two non-EU countries, Belarus and the Russian Federation (Kaliningrad oblast). The governments of Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Belarus, and the European Commission have initiated the preparation of an agreement on cooperation in the use and protection of water bodies within the Nemunas RBD. A draft agreement has been drawn up but has not been signed yet. No measures have been foreseen for Poland and Latvia, because the part of the Nemunas RBD in Poland constitutes only 287 km2 (the upstream reaches of the rivers with no significant pressures), and the part of the RBD in Latvia constitutes only 100 km2 (the upstream reaches of the rivers with no significant pressures), and the results of water quality monitoring showed that the ecological status of the rivers along the Polish and Latvian border were good.