Adaptation to Climate Change through Transboundary Flood Risk Management in the Western Balkans

Project description

Title: Adaptation to Climate Change through Transboundary Flood Risk Management in the Western Balkans
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Southeastern Europe (Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia)
Lead executing agencies: Albania: Ministry of Tourism and Environment; Kosovo: Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning; Montenegro: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism; North Macedonia: Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning
Overall term: 2012 to 2021

Floods 2010 in Shkodra region


The Drin River Basin in the Western Balkans is home to 1.6 million people. 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.

Over the past few years, the frequency and severity of natural disasters (mainly floods and droughts) in the Western Balkans region has increased substantially. Climate change is causing intensive floods, which affect the living conditions of the population along the Drin River Basin. Climate projection models predict that flooding is likely to increase in the coming years. The consequences of flooding include damage to property, destruction of crops, and loss of livestock, with severe economic impacts for communities. The riparian countries (Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia) clearly see a need for joint action in terms of preparedness, response and recovery, to successfully face the consequences of these events and adapt to predicted changes.


Transboundary flood risk management is strengthened with regard to climate change.

Measurements of water level


The project focuses on the Drin River Basin and supports institutions at national and local levels in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia.



The project currently acts in three key areas:

  • Flood Hazard and Risk Mapping: The project supports partner institutions with technical and methodological expertise for the participatory development of Flood Hazard and Risk Maps (FHRM) in accordance with the EU Floods Directive. 
  • Early Warning: The project works with national and local authorities in selected pilot areas on building capacities for delivering effective and timely “end to end” early warnings. It provides technical and organisational advice to national Hydro-meteorological Services to improve their capacities for forecasting and warning. 
  • Institutional development: The project supports actors at national and local levels in strengthening their strategic capacities to better coordinate Flood Risk Management. 


The current project is building on the achievements of its earlier stages. Previously, a Flood Forecasting System has been established for the national Hydro-meteorological Services and is now in use. As a result, around 30,000 people potentially affected by floods can be warned in advance. The riparian countries are now exchanging more and better real-time hydrological and meteorological data, which was unthinkable just a few years ago.

A long-term goal of transboundary cooperation among the Drin riparian countries is to have a joint regional Flood Risk Management. For this reason, a transboundary Technical Working Group on Flood Risk Management was established. Within this group, technical expertise is being provided to riparian countries for the identification of areas with significant flood risk, the first step of the EU Floods Directive. 

In a participatory approach, eight communal Flood Risk Management plans in Albania and 22 local Flood Risk Management plans in Montenegro were developed in accordance with the EU Floods Directive. 

Local authorities in the risk-affected areas of Albania and Montenegro have already implemented adaptation measures as part of their plans. Flood awareness campaigns were carried out for enhancing the awareness of flood risk of the local population and authorities in Albania and Montenegro. Furthermore, in cooperation with affected municipalities in Albania and Montenegro, drainage channels were cleared in order to reduce the risk of floods.

In Kosovo, both a drought management guideline for drinking water utilities and a drought management plan for Gjilan were produced. Moreover, a drought early warning tool based on a Standard Precipitation Index (SPI) has been developed for regional water companies in Kosovo, which remains in use.

Climate change vulnerability assessments were carried out in three capital cities (Tirana, Podgorica, Belgrade) during the first phase of the project. Based on the assessments, climate adaptation plans were developed and first measures have been implemented.

In addition, a participatory National Adaptation Process was facilitated in Albania for the first time in the Balkans, resulting in a National Adaptation Plan (NAP), which strengthens capacities among the Inter-ministerial Working Group members. It also constitutes the adaptation pillar of the recently approved Albanian Climate Change Strategy.

The recent floods in early 2018 already showed that the measures supported by the project are effective in mitigating flood damage.


Further Information