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From river watch to river manage: Friends of the Baltic NGO and Ecocentrum took part in the international camp "Baltics Starts Here!" in Belarus

Experts from Friends of the Baltic NGO and Ecocentrum Ltd took part in the international camp "Baltics Starts Here!" and a field training on water monitoring in Baranovichi and Ivantsevichi districts of the Republic of Belarus.

The event was held from September 20 to September 24th by the local public ecological association "Nerush" with support of Coalition Clean Baltic. Participants were representatives of non-profit organizations from the Baltic Sea region, water management experts, as well as students from belorussian universities.

Within the framework of the meeting, the participants had an opportunity to discuss the main features of the transboundary river basin management, including the main challenges, main rules of nature management and water protection, and also visited the main river management points in the region. Microplastic in waters was also one of the main topic discussed on the event. This is an issue that attracts more and more attention of environmental specialists and a public.

Participants from St. Petersburg and Leningrad region presented the experience of the network of observation of rivers in the Gulf of Finland basin, about 30 groups from network observe and study of ecological status of water objects. Now a study of nitrates in water bodies carry out, and a team has been created in the basin of Luga River, which includes environmentalists, NGOs, professionals, local activists, representatives of environmental authorities - all who care about the conservation of living in the rivers and the Baltic.

Participants also visited the museum of the history of Baranovichi Vodokanal, its treatment facilities, and also the most important water objects of the region - Shchara River, the site of former removal of peat, Olginsky Channel, Sominskoye Lake (karst lake, the deepest in Brest Region), Vulkovskoye Lake, Vygonoshchanskoe Lake (the largest in the region). Also, participants took part in everyday life of Agrarian village "Pavlinovo" and walked on the ecological path in Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

All three days were devoted to the study of water bodies monitoring methods and obtaining of actual data on the ecological status of the largest rivers and lakes in the region. Basically, hydrochemical methods of water quality investigation were used, but the participants also determined the ecological state of water ecosystems on analysis of the species (method of bioindication).

Participants checked water quality in the rivers Myshanka, Shchara, Kocheryzhka, Lokhozva as well as streams and wells. Unfortunately, the content of pollutants in some places were high: in some parts of rivers Myshanka, Kocheryzhka, Lokhozva, phosphates and nitrates were detected in concentrations more than maximum allowable concentration. In the opinion of participants, this is due to the washing off detergents and using of nitrogen fertilizers in near-by areas. Ammonia was found in the Derevianka River (near Tartaky village) and Kocheryzhka, which may indicate the flushing of black waters. Moreover, nitrates were detected in some wells. Usually, such wells were located near the sheds and kitchen gardens.

The participants took knowledge on transboundary river basins management within the framework of the role game: they discussed the causes of eutrophication, impact of dams to the river basins, the rules of environmental friendly and effective water management, and could take part in a discussion about public participation in solving the problems of large and small rivers.

The experience of a field camp for river basin management was highly appreciated by participants and will be used in other transboundary basins in the Baltic Sea region. According to the participants opinion, the problems of river basins are similar in any country: competent river basin management plan requires not only special knowledge of water use sectors and involving experts from the science, but also participation of all stakeholders in decision making process, experience exchange with neighbors.

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