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Shared knowledge on wastewater-based epidemiology: high-level workshop on 3rd July

Country: Regional
Component: Water resources, Environmental Data

Wastewater is a mirror of our civilization and an effective early warning system for the spreading of contagious diseases. Through the EU4Environment Water and Data program, the European Union supports its Eastern Partner countries in the further development of wastewater monitoring and in institutionalizing this new powerful tool for public health protection.

On 3 July 2023, upfront the WHO Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Budapest, a high-level workshop brings together ministers and other decision-makers of the Eastern Partner countries with EU representatives to address the need for a national wastewater-based epidemiology policy and regulation in the region. Aim of the workshop is to review the power and benefits of this tool and to initiate the relevant policy processes in the partner countries to formally establish a surveillance that can easily coordinate with the EU and other global actors. Austrian experts will highlight progress and further needs at the workshop and in a side event at the WHO Ministerial Conference on July 5.

Together, the European Union and our Eastern partners were able to overcome enormous challenges posed by the pandemic”, explains Lawrence Meredith, director of the EU Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations. “The next step will be to set up routine wastewater epidemiological testing as soon as possible. The European Union is ready to make this next step together with the Eastern Partner countries.

In order to ensure establishment, sustainability and reliability of national wastewater-based epidemiology programmes, it is essential to define procedures with allocated responsibilities at the health and environment sectors. Countries need to arrange formal commitment from relevant national actors and ensure adequate resourcing. Our program has laid the foundation for this”, states Alexander Zinke, project leader of EU4Environment Water and Data.

We are keen to share the EU experience and strengthen regular coordination with key actors at EU and the global level” says Bernd Gawlik from the EU Joint Research Centre, stressing the global dimension of wastewater-based epidemiology.

Wastewater-based epidemiology has been established since 2021 throughout Europe as a cost-effective, rapid and reliable source of epidemiologic information for national health authorities, local health care and national disease control centers, public and private wastewater operators, and water and environment agencies. Triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, wastewater surveillance of the spread of infections is becoming a global standard that has clear advantages compared for instance to clinical testings. The EU4Environment Water and Data program initiated in April 2022 the introduction of wastewater-based epidemiology to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Republic of Moldova, supports Ukraine and keeps on transferring the EU and Austrian experience and know how on this topic in close coordination with the European Commission.

Regional training on statistics and indicators on air quality and emissions to air

Country: Regional
Component: Environmental Data

A regional training on statistics and indicators on air quality and emissions to air took place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on 4 and 5 May 2023. The regional training was organised by UNECE in cooperation with UNEP, the Environment Agency Austria and Statistics Luxembourg and with the financial support of the European Union, through the EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data programme.

The Regional training aimed at contributing to the development of capacity in countries to produce, share and use indicators on air quality and air emissions as recommended in the revised UNECE Guidelines for the Application of Environmental Indicators. This will help countries to provide robust information for evidence-based policies, following the SEIS principles.

The Regional Training was preceded by the 25th session of the Working Group on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment which was held from 2-3 May 2023 in Geneva and online and with financial support from the European Union.

 

Background:

The UNECE Working Group on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment serves all the UNECE member States as a platform to exchange good practice and information, develop action plans and strengthen environmental monitoring, assessment and reporting.

The Joint Task Force on Environmental Statistics and Indicators (JTFESI) was set up by the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy (CEP) and the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) in 2009 with a view to gradually improve environmental statistics including in the European Union Eastern Partnership countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

In October 2021, the JTFESI agreed on an updated list of priority indicators to be produced across the pan-European region in line with the principles of the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS).

Training materials are available at the UNECE website: https://unece.org/info/Statistics/events/375048

Information on the 25th session of the Working Group on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment can be found under: https://unece.org/environmental-policy/events/twenty-fifth-session-working-group-environmental-monitoring-and

 

Latest updates (May-June 2023)

Country: Regional
Component: Water resources, Environmental Data

On May 13th, the EU4Environment Water and Data Programme celebrated Europe Day in Chisinau.

Water resources

Water monitoring

Several water surveys took place in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia over the months of May and June. In Armenia, surface and groundwater surveys took place mid June. In Azerbaijan, a surface water survey took place early May, and a coastal and transitional water survey aimed to examine the eutrophication in the Baku Bay caused by wastewater. In Georgia, following a surface water and coastal and transitional water survey in May, experts conducted in June a comprehensive groundwater assessment training and a groundwater sampling audit to assess the respect of the ISO  standards and the EU Water Framework and Groundwater Directives to monitor groundwater. Still in Georgia, a workshop on ecological monitoring took place early May.

River Basin Management Plans

In Armenia, a consultation on the Qasakh quantitative management plan was held.

National Policy Dialogues and international cooperation

Ukraine held its 7th meeting of the national policy dialogue. Participants discussed the next steps in the actualisation of Ukraine’s water governance policies in order to better put the European Union objectives in practice.

Several UNECE working groups took place in May and June (working group on water and sanitation, on integrated water resources management).

 

Environmental data

The 25th session of the UNECE Working Group on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment was held and gathered representatives from all of the Eastern Partner Countries.

Water accounts

A workshop to introduce water accounts to decision-makers took place on June 13th in Armenia.

Air quality

Region-wide activities were organized concerning air quality monitoring. One regional training on statistics and indicators on air quality and emissions to air took place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. This will help countries to provide robust information for evidence-based policies, following the SEIS principles.

The Regional Training was preceded by the 25th session of the Working Group on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment which was held from 2-3 May 2023 in Geneva and online and with financial support from the European Union.An indepth review of air emission inventories submitted by the partner countries under the Air convention took place in Vienna at the end of May.

Environmental data collection

The previous progress on open data collection for environmental information online portals continued in Armenia and Georgia. These portals will collect data submitted by various stakeholders and analyze it, in order to present it to a large audience on their websites.

Latest updates (March-April 2023)

Country: Regional
Component: Water resources, Environmental Data

Water resources management

World Water Day & UN conference

The Eastern Partner Countries celebrated World Water Day on March 22nd 2023, through a number of articles and videos highlighting local initiatives in accelerating change for water throughout the region. Azerbaijan focused on nature-based solutions to clean its lakes, Armenia organized a month-long water and air public monitoring campaign, and international cooperation was at the heart of the Moldovan, Romanian and Ukrainian initiative. Ukraine also organized the Fisher Marathon, an awareness-raising campaign that let young Ukrainian students and children participate in local water-related challenges and activities.

The UN 2023 Water Conference also took place in March, and was attended by several representatives from the Eastern Partner Countries. Iordanca-Rodica Iordanov, Minister of Environment of the Republic of Moldova, and Ruslan Strilets, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine discussed about further cooperation to launch a working group on the management of the Prut, Siret and Danube delta river basins within the ICPDR.

Mukhtar Babayev, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, exchanged with UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova on cooperation under the National Policy Dialogue under the Water Convention and SDG indicator 6.5.2.

National Policy dialogues and approximation towards the EU water acquis

Both Azerbaijan, where an updated Water Strategy document was presented for adoption by the government, and Moldova held their national policy dialogue meeting to assess their progress in the water sector and discuss the next steps in the actualisation of their water governance policies to better put the European Union water framework directive in practice.

In several Eastern Partner Countries, measures were taken to ensure that the legislations on water and water governance is better aligned with the European Union acquis. In Armenia, a draft of the national water sector data management framework and a proposal to initiate discussions on further elaboration of the framework document were sent to the Ministry of Environment. In Ukraine, a working group was also implemented in Ukraine under the Ministry of Environment in order to assess the Ukrainian legislation of environmental protection for compliance with EU law. The result of this work will be the Draft of the National Programme for the implementation of EU legislation.

Series of national and regional workshops

Several workshops also took place during the months of March and April, such as a series of workshops and webinars in Ukraine on the implementation of the Dnipro River Basin Management plan, and two workshops on transboundary monitoring of groundwater bodies between Georgia and Armenia, and Georgia and Azerbaijan. 

A training on COVID-19 monitoring in wastewater took place in Moldova from 28 April to 1st March.

Environmental data

Water accounting

Several workshops took place in the Eastern Partner Countries, in order to present the European approaches to water accounting to decision-makers, as well as possible ways to improve knowledge on water use in Azerbaijan at a national level and at a cross-border level for the countries of Moldova and Ukraine. A regional webinar on water accounts gathered participants from Ukraine and Moldova during three sessions on March 1st, 7th and 9th.

Land and groundwater bodies monitoring

Both Georgia and Ukraine held a workshop on land monitoring, which focused on the national implementation of the Corine Land Cover pilot project, on the joint assessment of available global and national land monitoring data as well as on the preparation and decision on the use of High Resolution Land Cover data for national assessments in a pilot area, following the example of Moldova and Armenia.

Another workshop on the remote sensing for land monitoring also took place in Azerbaijan on April 19-20.

Environmental data collection

In Armenia and Georgia, progress has been made in implementing environmental information online portals. They will collect data submitted by various stakeholders and analyze it, in order to present it to a large audience on their websites.

World Water Day: European Union and Eastern Partner countries accelerate change for water

Country: Regional
Component: Water resources

On 22 March, the globe celebrates World Water Day. Water is a crosscutting issue that features in numerous Sustainable Development Goals through its close links with food, health, climate, energy, biodiversity, poverty and gender equality. The UN water conference that takes place in New York on 22-24 March 2024 spotlights countries’ commitments to face these challenges and set a clear agenda for the second half of the Decade for Water Action (2018-2028) and beyond.

Video series to highlight water actions in Eastern Partner countries

In Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, people from different backgrounds are taking action for water. They represent important drivers of change for their countries.  A series of videos and articles produced with the support of the EU4Environment Water and Data programme tells stories of how important it is in these countries to protect rivers, lakes, and all water ecosystems.

The Ukrainian population suffering from the impacts of war has made all of us realise that safe access to drinking water is a basic human right. The example of Armenian farmers switching to more ecological practices shows that it is possible to grow food by respecting soils and rivers. The Khojasan Lake in Azerbaijan reminds us that there is only one health system that jointly affects humans, animals and ecosystems. The inhabitants of river basins in Georgia highlight the need to bring local stakeholders into the discussion and make them part of water policy development and its successful implementation. The cooperation between the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine on the Prut river basin is necessary to tackle severe water quality problems, declining biodiversity, and the impacts of climate change, such as increasingly frequent floods and droughts.

Building a common water culture between the European Union and the Eastern partners

The Water Framework Directive is an important pillar of the European Union’s proposal to improve water policies and practices in the Eastern Partnership countries, in addition to the Protocol on Water and Health and the Water Convention on Transboundary Basins promoted by the United Nations.

Concepts must be assimilated locally by stakeholders and regulations, such as: the importance of ecosystem services and the need for biological monitoring, decentralisation at river basin scale, and the participation of water users and local stakeholders in water resources management to better balance all water uses (environment, agriculture, domestic, energy, industry). In countries under water stress, specific approaches are proposed: water quantitative management plans, water accounts and targeted economic tools as important levers for changing non-sustainable or even harmful practices.

The local geopolitical context may make it difficult to implement smooth cross-border cooperation. However, visions and concrete tools are being put in place in each country to facilitate joint management of water resources: river basin management plans on both sides of the border, joint field surveys on transboundary rivers, studies of transboundary aquifers, support to establish transboundary commissions, etc. 

The European Union together with Eastern Partner countries can build an economy that is based on the well-being of people and water ecosystems. Together, we can make a stronger contribution to a much more ecologically harmonious society, where we can ensure our well-being in ways that do not deteriorate our environment.

 

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The EU-funded “EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data” Programme, launched in 2021, aims at supporting a more sustainable use of water resources and improving the use of sound environmental data ... Read more

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