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General considerations for the Ohrid Lake: Pollution and Management

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PROJECT TITLE: STRENGTHENING EDUCATION AND TRAINING CAPACITY ON NATURAL RESOURCE CONSERVATION IN OHRID – PRESPA BASIN. General considerations for the Ohrid Lake: Pollution and Management. Prof. Zoran T. Popovski PhD – UCAM – Skopje, Macedonia.

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General considerations for the Ohrid Lake:

Pollution and Management

Prof. Zoran T. Popovski PhD – UCAM – Skopje, Macedonia

A Royal Meeting is a story about two boys, Economicosand Technologicos, who grow apart from their mother, the queen - Natura, and their older sisters Ecologiaand Philosophia.
  • The two boys develop a society that is powerful but one that suffers from pollution, inequality, and instability.
  • How to create a harmony within the family?
ohrid lake
Ohrid lake


  • Age
  • Type
  • Area
  • Length
  • Width
  • Depth
hydrological threats
  • Because of the karstic underground a large amount of water of Prespa Lakes seeps into the soil, drains away through a network of underground fissures, and supplies the springs located on the shore of Lake Ohrid
  • Present water level in Prespa Lake is 5–6 m lower than in the 1940s.
  • Annual evaporation from the lake surface exceeds direct precipitation.
  • Inflow and the outflow is very small so that the lake\'s water is exchanged approximately on every 60 years. This long water retention time is the main reason for the slow reaction of the lake to pollution.
  • Lake Ohrid can still be classified as oligotrophic, but progressing eutrophication has recently been noted.
chemical threats
  • The main pollution source is waste water. Most places around the lake do not possess treatment plants. The Regional Sewage System for the Protection of Lake Ohrid collects wastewater from about 65% of the Ohrid-Struga region, and delivers it to the treatment plant Vranista.
  • After untreated wastewater, the second major source of pollution is the inflow from the tributaries that carry anthropogenic chemicals
  • In the Macedonian catchment area, a huge source of pollution are sediment load discharged by the Sateska River
  • Among another important pressure on Lake Ohrid is heavy metal pollution as a result of former mining activities in the lake watershed. Several Fe–Ni and Cr mines are located close to the lake (2.5 km), whereas four other coal mines can be found within a distance of 10 km from the lake shore.
  • All indicators are pointing to the unlikely scenario that oligotrophic character of the lake can be easily turned into eutrophic one.





  • A variety of pesticides are also used, including copper sulphate, linden, organophosphates fungicides, and other chemicals.
  • Significant source of pollution to Lake Ohrid with fertilizers wash into rivers and streams. In the region, the fertilizer use is high, averaging 160-200 kg/ha/yr.
  • The concentration of phosphorus now may be 3 or 4 timeshigher than the concentration measured before World War II.
  • Considering the very large volume of water in Lake Ohrid, this is a very significant change. Therefore, it is predicted that the state of the lake will move from its present state (oligotrophic) to mesotrophic or even eutrophic in the next ten years, if measures are not taken to limit phosphorus loading into the lake.




  • In Ohrid-Prespa Region include automobile spare parts, electrical parts, textile, ceramic processing plants. All of these industries produce waste that is contaminating the Sateska, Velgoska, Koselska, and Golema Rivers.
  • The metal pollution has a cumulative negative effect on human health and it can be expressed long time after the exposure on their presence.
  • There is no precise register of the potential pollutants in this region. That’s why it is difficult to solve the environmental incidents that are appearing especially in terms of water pollution.
  • It is the reason why is important to alarm and solve the problem with metal pollution as soon as possible.




  • Macedonian shoreline of Ohrid lake is the most important tourist destination in the country. Ohrid is uniquely positioned to appeal to the growing market in cultural tourism, with the many historic sites, monasteries, and other national treasures in the area.
  • Lake Ohrid could also be promoted within the ecotourism market, but an essential prerequisite for this kind of tourism is a healthy and unpolluted environment, with clean water.
  • But, there is a strong pressure from touristic activities on the environmental status in the region.




Interventions in the lake watershed and changes in the water regime

  • Before 1961, the River Sateska flowed into the Black DrimRiver. In 1962, it was diverted to drain the Struga marshland,
  • It drained about 2500 ha and regulated the course and slope of Black Drim River through the town of Struga and the agricultural area around the town.
  • When the Sateska was diverted, antierosion measures intended to reduce sediment suspension in the river and the input of sediment to Lake Ohrid were put in place.
  • These measures were initially effective, but they were later terminated. Since then, sediment has since accumulated in the constructed riverbed, the channel has degraded, and shoreline vegetation has been lost.





  • The lack of suitable infrastructure hampers adequate waste disposal. None of the landfill Macedonia are lined or have drainage systems to collect and treat the contaminated waste. There is one location for disposing of solid waste (Bukovo).
  • Having in mind their saturation with enormous quantity of waste, they are serious threats to the environment and wildlife in the basin.
  • There are no incineration plants (except one for medical waste), no composting and few recycling facilities, and no proper hazardous waste management.


  • Releasing waste water from the without previous treatment
  • Inappropriate covering with canalization in the rural regions
  • Inappropriate monitoring of the quality of the surface and underground water
incredible biodiversity
  • As one of the oldest lakes in the world Lake Ohrid is a 2-4 million years old natural museum possessing endemic primeval flora and fauna. Because of its rich history and unique flora and fauna, Lake Ohrid was declared a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site in 1980.
  • Ohrid lake abounds with enormous natural heritage that is due to the natural conditions (geographic isolation, geological structure, relief structure, climate, hydrology, and soil composition). A lot of studies have been performed to asses and approve its incredible endemic biodiversity
  • Approximately 1,200 native species are known from the lake, and at least 212 species are endemic, including 182 animals. The adjusted rate of endemicity is estimated at 36% for all taxa. In terms of endemic biodiversity, Lake Ohrid is with these endemic species and a surface area probably the most diverse lake in the world, taking surface area into account.
  • Lake Ohrid contains seventeen different species of fish belonging to the three groups: trout, white fish and eel. Ten species of fish are endemic. The best - known are two kinds of trout, letnica (Salmo letnica) and belvica (Acantholingua ohridana), which are not to be found anywhere else.
All presented data related to location, climate, hydrobiology and biodiversity of the region are showing that it possess incredible capacities for economic development based on natural resources.
  • But, increasing human population in both lake catchments, eutrophication of the lake waters, is adversely affecting the ecosystems today.
  • Several threats to nature remains, due to lack of awareness, low institutional capacity, unsustainable agriculture, constant draining of wetlands, and uncontrolled urbanisation and industrialisation. Soil erosion and drought are also significant natural hazards.
  • Only concerted international action can stop or at least slow down further degradation of Lake Ohrid and its biodiversity.



  • It is very clear that the fisheries in Lake Ohrid are in immediate danger and rapid management action is required. All the data suggest that the trout populations are severely stressed and the bleak and carp populations are also threatened.
  • Overfishing seems to be the major cause of the decline of the trout population. The socio-economic pressures that have led to overfishing have impacted the trout more than other fish stocks because of the greater demand and higher economic value of this fish.
  • In addition to harvest pressures and habitat loss, the native fish of Lake Ohrid are also threatened by the introduction of non-native species into the lake. Rainbow trout represents a particular concern because it may displace the native trout.
  • There is also some preliminary evidence that the pesticides used by farmers in the watershed may threaten fish in the lake. These pesticides have been found in the tissues of fish collected from the lake. Not only are these pesticides harmful to the fish themselves, but they also pose hazards to the people who eat the fish, especially women of childbearing age and small children.
goodlooking institutional frame

The Macedonian Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning as a main state body in charge for environmental protection is responsible for:

  • monitoring of the state of the environment;
  • proposing measures and activities to protect waters, soil, air and ozone layer, protection against noise and radiation, protection of biological diversity, geological diversity, national parks and protected areas;
  • rehabilitation of polluted parts of environment;
  • cooperation with scientific institutions for the purpose of developing standards, norms, rules of procedure to regulate the environment protection;
  • development of a system of self-financing from independent sources, types and amounts of environmental compensations and other charges;
  • cooperation with civil associations, civil initiatives and other forms of civil activity;
  • inspection supervision within its scope of activity.


  • Other key governmental institutions that have responsibilities directly related to the environment are: Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Water Management, responsible for issues concerning e.g. agricultural land use and use of forests and other natural resources, hunting and fishing; Ministry of Health, responsible for issues concerning e.g. protection of the health of population, through surveillance/control of pollution of air, water and food and genetically modified food; and Ministry of Economy, responsible for issues concerning e.g. eco-tourism, industrial pollution, mineral resources exploitation and energy efficiency.
  • According to the law for decentralization some responsibilities related to environmental protection were transferred to the municipalities. But…
  • Due to insufficient institutional capacity and fragmented responsibilities, the area of air and water quality is problematic. Further significant implementation efforts are needed in the area of waste management. Environmental monitoring is inefficient, especially due to scattered competences between different Ministries and public bodies, and inspection, especially at municipal level, is poorly addressed.
perfect legal framework

Law on environment

  • The supervision over the enforcement of this Law and related regulations is realized by the body of the state administration responsible for the affairs of the environment. Special duties in terms of inspection has State Inspectorate of Environment through the State Inspectors of Environment, and Inspectors of Nature Protection.

Law on ambient air quality

  • Responsibilities for monitoring in a transboundary context are delegated to the body responsible for the performance of professional matters in the area of hydrometeorology. It carries out the monitoring and the control over the transboundary transportation of pollutants into the atmospheric air, as well as the impact by the atmospheric air pollution on the climate processes in the atmosphere.

Law on nature protection

  • This law is regulating the management, supervision and protection of protected areas, except for the strict natural reserves and national parks..

Law on waste management

  • The implementation of the Waste Management Plan of the Republic of Macedonia is carried out through one-year programs on waste management, adopted by: the body of the public administration responsible for the affairs of the environment, the Councils of the Municipalities, upon a proposal of the Mayors of the Municipalities.


  • National legislative framework for environmental protection should be approximated with the following EU documents:
    • Directive of the Council of EU (1979/409)
    • Directive of the Council of EU (98/83/ES)
    • Directive of the Council of EU (91/271/EES)
    • Convention for protection of European wild world and environments (Bern)
    • Convention for protection of World’s cultural and natural heritage
  • Legal framework for protection of Ohrid-Prespa region as a part of national legislation of both parts (Republic of Macedoniaand Republic of Albania) are almost ideal, but its implementation is still weak and it is an imperative to improve it.
  • Otherwise, this region will continue to be environmentally affected and its survival and development definitely will be endangered.
temporary joint efforts



Temporary Joint Efforts
  • The basis of environmental polices related to protection and development of Ohrid lake should be the mutual interest of neighboring countries. Therefore Macedonian and Albanian authorities in continuity are putting joint effort to establish permanent cooperation in order to provide protection and sustainable development of the lake
  • In 1996 the governments of the Republic of Albania and the Republic of Macedonia, with an assistance of the World Bank, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of The Lake Ohrid Conservation Project (LOCP) that established the Lake Ohrid Management Board (LOMB) as a joint body for long-term basin management and protection of Lake Ohrid.
  • The project development objective was to conserve and protect natural resources and biodiversity by developing and supporting effective cooperation between Albania and Macedonia for the joint environmental management of the Lake Ohrid. LOCP takes a holistic, integrated and watershed based approach in management of Lake Ohrid. The project was realized between 1998 and 2002.
  • The main goals were to develop the institutional, legal, and regulatory framework for environmental management of the lake; to develop water quality and ecosystem monitoring; and to formulate, in a participatory process, an operational watershed management program.


  • In 2004 was accepted the Agreement between the council of ministers of the Republic of Albania and the government of the Republic of Macedonia for the protection and sustainable development of lake Ohrid and its watershed and its mindful of the local, regional and global significance of Lake Ohrid as a site of exceptional environment. In order to realize the objectives, the parties accepted the following obligations:
    • Prevent, control and reduce pollution of the waters in the watershed;
    • Protect the soil from erosion, depletion, infections and pollution;
    • Protect the biodiversity by protecting especially the endemic, rare, threatened or endangered species of flora and fauna;
    • Prevent introduction and breeding non-autocthonous animal and plant species
    • Ensure the sustainable use of natural resources of the watershed;
    • Avoid any serious damage of the cultural values and natural landscapes
    • Prevent and control the economic activities which may cause negative impact in the Lake watershed


  • Mayors from the region of Ohrid - Prespa from Macedonian and Albanian side on September 28, 2012, along with managers of national parks Pelister and Galichica from Macedonian and Prespa from the Albanian side, In Korce, Albania signed a Declaration establishing a biosphere reserve under UNESCO in this region. With the proclamation of the biosphere reserve, paving the way UNESCO to declared this area a World Heritage.
  • Unfortunately, those documents (Agreements, Declarations, MoU’s, Projects) are temporary and not followed enough by appropriate and concrete activities in NG sector, and especially in responsible state and local authorities.
  • It will be important to create appropriate and consistent policy.
  • Environment


  • Ecology
  • Education
  • Ethics


  • One of the current trends seeks to move from an approach of ideology and activism to one that allows people to make decisions and take action based on experience as well as data.
  • By what means can people begin to understand and appreciate the connection between economics and ecology?
ee for the future of ohrid lake
  • The further progress of Ohrid-Prespa region should be based on well-educated and skilled local population.
  • Beside the formal personal education and professional development of each citizen from the region, it is very important to provide sustainable and efficient environmental education in non-formal and informal manner.
  • Also, the goal of this type of EE could be reached using interactive tools, debates, eco-games, quiz etc.
  • But, the first phase in the preparation of the appropriate environmental education (EE) offer should be to assess the need for such activities in different sectors.