Water Food Ecosystems - 2. Pechora river basin

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Pechora River Basin Integrated System Management


The Pechora River (Northeast European Russia) is the only European River comparable in dimensions with the Rhine (see first photograph) that is still largely untouched by human influences. Only one bridge connects the banks of the river and river training works are virtually absent. Practically all European salmonid fish (12 species) still occur in this river. The Delta is an important breeding area and stopover sites for migratory birds, wintering in Western Europe and Africa. For example, 50% of the flyway population of Bewick’s Swans is breeding in the Pechora delta. Also significant proportions of populations of ducks, geese and wader birds breed in the Pechora floodplains and delta.

To safeguard the unique environmental quality in the Pechora river basin and Barents Sea region, the development of a coherent system of officially protected areas is a main priority item. As in near future industrial developments are foreseen, based on the rich oil, gas, mineral and forest and other natural resources, a challenge exists in defining a strategy for the development of the area and at the same time safeguarding the natural wealth, which is still present.

Overview of the Pechora River Basin with areas of interest

The Pechora River Basin is situated for its largest part in the Republic of Komi, and has its delta in the Nenets Autonomous Region (see figure with approximated areas of interest). Today, in the Komi Republic there are 179 forest, floristic, meadow, peat, ichthyological, ornithological and geological reserves; 106 forest, floristic, meadow, peat, water and geological nature monuments. They together cover 6,082,241 ha, i.e.14.6 % of the total area of the Komi Republic. The largest specially protected areas are the Pechoro-Ilychsky Nature Reserve (721,322 ha) and the National Park "Yugyd va" (1,891,701 ha), situated on the western slopes of the Northern and Sub-arctic Urals and lowlands of the right bank of the Pechora river. This largest virgin taiga forest in Europe is included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

Wise use
PRISM intends to centre around the wise use principle of development, implying the analysis of territorial and water management options and implications based on information collected during standard monitoring programs and relevant scientific baseline investigations. As actually many developments in the field of forest management and wood processing are ongoing in Komi, there is a need for assessment of the actual situation. The same applies for the present state of the oil and gas industry as well as mining activities. Only when knowing the ecological and hydrological significance of the key components and processes of the ecosystems in the area on the one hand, and the current and future functions and land use categories on the other hand, an assessment can reveal the suitability and/or vulnerability of defined parts of these ecosystems and processes for the defined functions and land use categories, and thus the need for development, protection or zoning.

Mutual interests
The Russian and Netherlands parties, initiating this programme, have a mutual interest in this co-operation. On the global level, both countries have a commitment for maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity. But also more practical mutual interests are considered essential. So, e.g. serious deforestation in the vast taiga forest zone could enforce climate change and in the end cause wet feet in the Netherlands. On the other hand, commercial activities from the Netherlands economical sectors could well have influence on the ecosystems in Komi. Contacts have been established already with the NAM in NL and GAZPROM in Komi, which are both interested in co-operation under PRISM.
Exchange of scientific and technical information on natural ecosystems is therefore necessary, which in the same time can serve as a reference for the Rhine river basin management and restoration efforts, and which can enhance international flyway management of threatened water birds (AEWA). Also the exchange of experience in nature protected areas management is considered a strong stimulus for improved management in both countries.
Finally, also public awareness on environmental protection and nature conservation is considered of mutual interest. Coalitions between organisations in NL and in Komi and Nenets could be a strong incentive to co-operate in the field of sustainable development, and may later be extended to other partners.

The programme is meant as an umbrella for various projects. The projects will result in concrete results in 2003-2004.

  • a GIS database of geography, hydrology and land use of the catchment area, based on remote sensing and existing information (lead DHV)
  • development of a hydraulic River Basin model (lead WL | Delft Hydraulics)
  • an inventory of basic ecological, sociological and economic patterns and values within the catchment area, developing a biodiversity/land use model (lead Alterra - Green World Research)
  • a socio-economic analysis of the different communities in the catchment area, including the role of rural communities and indigenous people (lead UvA)
  • guidelines for sustainable use of natural resources (forestry, hunting and fishery practice)
  • norms and standards for industrial activities related to water and land management and forestry
  • first scenarios for possible future economical developments in the catchment area, focussing on forestry and oil/gas exploitation, using a DSS (lead DEMIS)
  • joint scientific and popular publications based on the investigations and results of the first phase.

For further information, please, contact:
Mr. Mennobart van Eerden
PO Box 17, 8200 AA Lelystad, The Netherlands
+31 (0)320 298411
Russian Federation
Institute of Biology, RAS Syktyvkar (lead)
Ministry of Natural Resources and local administration of Komi and Nenets Autonomous Region
Fishery Inspection Komi and Nenets Autonomous Region
Committee of Forests
Institute SevPINRO (Arkhangel’sk)
Institute of Economic and Social Problems of the North
Environmental Education Centre "Nature & Man", Pechora
The Netherlands
Institute for Inland Water Management and Wastewater Treatment, RIZA (lead)
Alterra, Wageningen-UR
WL | Delft Hydraulics
DHV, Survey Department
University of Amsterdam
University of Groningen