Climate change adaptation in the Western Balkans

Project description

Title: Climate change adaptation in the Western Balkans
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: South-East Europe
Lead executing agencies: Albania: Ministry of Environment; Kosovo: Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning; Macedonia: Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning; Montenegro: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism; Serbia: Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection
Overall term: 2012 to 2018

The Drin River Basin is home to 1.6 million people in the Western Balkans. Their lives depend on this system, which provides the resources they need for electricity generation, irrigation, fishing and recreational activities. Increasing floods and droughts in the Mediterranean region, and especially in the Western Balkans, will pose ever greater risks to the economy, flora, fauna and human health.

Forecasts indicate that the riparian states of Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, as well as Serbia, will be particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. In the countries concerned, it is generally expected that there will be a rise in average annual temperatures, for example of up to 5.6 degrees Celsius in Albania, and decreased average annual precipitation, for example a reduction of 5 per cent by 2050 in Macedonia. On the one hand this will lead to milder and wetter winters in the region. On the other, extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent, which will increase the risk of flooding, soil erosion and water pollution. Warmer and dry springs will lead to longer dry periods with temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius, especially during the summer months. Considering that the temperatures in urban areas will rise by several degrees, cities such as Tirana and Podgorica could face heat waves of over 45 degrees.

The floods in the Albanian city of Shkodra in 2010 and the extreme drought in Kosovo in 2013 have shown that people in the region are not yet sufficiently prepared for the expected impacts of climate change. Many national institutions are in fact partially aware of this, but the necessary expertise is lacking along with – most importantly – reliable data. Furthermore, regional cooperation across national boundaries needs to be expanded. To date, adaptation strategies have not been integrated into the political framework either at regional or national level.

Adaptation to climate change in the Western Balkans, especially in relation to the risks of flooding and droughts, is improved.

In Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia the project is based on a diversified regional, national and local partner structure. GIZ support consists of advisory services provided by international, regional and local experts, in-service training measures, and procurement of equipment and materials.

The project acts in five key areas:

  1. establishing a regional flood early warning system for the Drin River Basin;
  2. support for national institutions in drafting climate change adaptation strategies;
  3. advisory services during the formulation of local flood risk and drought management plans, and in the implementation of measures to reduce risks;
  4. advisory services during the elaboration of transboundary concepts for water resource management;
  5. integrating recommendations for climate change adaptation into urban planning and development for the cities of Tirana, Podgorica and Belgrade.

The project is helping to mitigate health-related, social, economic and environmental impacts of climate change in the Western Balkans, focusing especially on flooding and drought risk management in the Drin River Basin. All the measures are supporting the partner countries in meeting the ambitious objectives and critical standards of the EU’s environmental legislation.

In Albania and Montenegro, flood risk management plans have been drawn up for 31 municipalities in a participatory process, and local capacities for their effective implementation have been developed. This has significantly reduced the vulnerability of the approximately 200,000 inhabitants to risks of flooding. Furthermore, in the four riparian states of the Drin, the precipitation and stream gauging networks have been extended to measure real-time data for transboundary flood forecasting. This now enables floods to be predicted and the population in the relevant areas to be warned.

In Kosovo GIZ has contributed to the development and introduction of a standardised planning instrument for predictive drought risk management at the seven regional water utilities. These companies, which supply the entire population of Kosovo with water services, are now able to collect and analyse precipitation data on a daily basis, and hence to identify seasonal deviations and forecast periods of drought. This means that water-saving measures can be initiated at an early stage to secure the drinking water supply.


Jakob Doetsch