Implementing a biosphere reserve in a region that covers Macedonia, Albania and Greece aims to improve economic prospects and co-operation.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Ohrid -- 20/09/12
The protected area includes lake, national parks and nature reserves in the three countries. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
The Ohrid and Prespa region, which is spread over Macedonia, Albania and Greece, will be declared a cross-border biosphere reserve under the protection of UNESCO.
The 4,000-square-kilometer area provides institutional protection of the natural and cultural heritage of the region, as well as the possibility for economic progress and co-operation for about 200,000 people who live in this part of the Balkans.
The project, part of the UNESCO programme Man and Biosphere, was initiated by the bilateral committee for the protection of the Ohrid Lake, will involve the governments, local governments and NGOs of the three countries.
Dejan Panovski, a representative for Macedonia in the bilateral committee for protection of Lake Ohrid, told SETimes that the Ohrid-Prespa region is one of the most important in Europe from an ecological and economical aspect.
"Establishing a cross-border biosphere reserve will raise the level of co-operation between the three neighboring countries and will once again show that the environment is always a good opportunity to establish good political and economic relations. If this will be put on the tourist offer of the region, the benefit would be for all," Panoski said.
This project will also provide complete protection of the Prespa and Ohrid lakes, the Galicica and Pelister national parks in Macedonia, Prespa in Greece and Albania, the natural reserve of endemic bird species Ezerani, and protection of all species of flora and fauna that exist there.
"[Under the plan], the zone of strict protection will be determined, where there will be restriction to build so-called tactile zones, settlement areas and urbanisation zones, where they can build tourist capacities. Those are the main benefits of the declaration of Ohrid and Prespa as biosphere reserve. Also this region will be under strict protection and will become one of the biggest tourist attractions in Europe," said Panovski
The application will be submitted to UNESCO in December, and the region will be declared a biosphere reserve.
The affected cities and the three countries will sign declarations to commit to providing protection. After all the procedures are done, tourists and science workers will be able to tour the area.
Arijan Meroli, a representative for Albania in the Bilateral committee, told SETimes that the new status will be a guarantee for the future economic development of the region.
"This will be a guarantee that there won’t be any problems in terms of economy in the region. That means that a lot of people will be interested in this region," Meroli said.
This part of Europe is one of the richest in plant and animal species. Scientists estimate that about 40 endemic species of flora and fauna live in the region.
The project will also improve cross-border communication and co-operation between the three neighboring countries, Oliver Avramoski, a representative from Galicica National Park told SETimes.
"This will raise the image of the region at the international level and can offer an excellent combination of natural and cultural heritage and different opportunities for tourism activities. After establishing the biosphere reserve, a joint action plan for management will be prepared," Avramoski said.