The UN 2023 Water Conference taking place on 22, 23 and 24 March 2023 dedicates its 4th interactive dialogue to the theme “Water for Cooperation”. Let's reflect on the cooperation between the Republic of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine on the Prut river basin.
The Prut River, a transboundary river with high stakes for three countries
The Prut River is one of the three longest tributaries of the Danube (Prut, Sava and Tisza are all between 950 and 1000 km long). The Prut river basin covers an area of 27.540 km²; its sub-basins are shared between Moldova (7.701 km2 or 28%), Romania (10.990 km² or 40 %) and Ukraine (8.849 km² or 32%).
Its history and transboundary character is highly marked by the fact that its main river course has always marked important country borders. Nowadays, for a length of 31 km, it forms the border between Romania and Ukraine, and for 711 km, it forms the border between Romania and Moldova.
The mountainous origin of the Prut River is the reason for its sufficiently large water content. But the Prut River faces severe water quality problems, such as a decline in biodiversity and a deterioration of its ecosystems. The impacts of climate change, such as increasingly frequent floods and droughts, are already felt in the basin and represent a concrete risk for both Moldova and Romania.
Cooperation between Moldova, Romania and Ukraine on the Prut river
A cooperation framework between the three countries sharing the Prut river basin is provided under the umbrella of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). The cooperation also follows country-specific bilateral agreements, such as the Agreement between the Government of Romania and the Government of Ukraine on Cooperation in the Field of Transboundary Water Management (Galati, 30 October 1997); the Moldova-Romania Intergovernmental Agreement on the cooperation in the field of water management of the Prut and of the Danube (Chisinau, 28 June, 2010); and the Agreement between the Government of Ukraine and the Government of Moldova on joint boundary waters management and protection. (Chisinau, 23 November 1994).
The countries of the Prut Basin (Moldova, Romania and Ukraine) are in the process of convergence towards the EU acquis. By reinforcing their transboundary co-operation, they can better address the needs of all countries and
As of today, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine are developing management plans for the part of the Prut river basin that is included within their national boundaries. The situation is as follow:
- Moldova has elaborated a RBMP for the Danube-Prut and Black Sea hydrological district, with support of the EU Water Initiative Plus. The RBMP has been adopted. https://www.legis.md/cautare/getResults?doc_id=132734&lang=ro
- Romania has elaborated and adopted a River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) for its share of both the Siret and the Prut river sub-basins. http://www.mmediu.ro/app/webroot/uploads/files/PMBH_Actualizat_Text_ABAPB.pdf
- Ukraine has also elaborated a draft RBMP for the Siret and the Prut sub-basins. https://www.davr.gov.ua/fls18/PrutSiret_1-11.pdf
The cost of non-cooperation
The UN concept paper reminds that there is a cost of non-cooperation. Unilateral action by communities, sectors and countries can lead to unsustainable and often more costly development choices, and if left unaddressed can even spiral into threats of regional stability and peace, especially within the context of weak governance systems and situations of fragility, conflict and violence.
Population growth, migration and increasing water demand, coupled with climate change impacts and ecosystem degradation, make water cooperation an imperative.
Progress on water cooperation must be accelerated. Currently, the world is not on track to implement integrated water resources management at all levels by 2030 (SDG target 6.5). An estimated 107 countries are not on track to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030;3 and out of 153 countries sharing transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers, only 32 countries have at least 90% of their transboundary basin area covered by operational arrangements for transboundary water cooperation.
European Union support
Since 2010, Moldova and Romania have agreed to cooperate on the protection and sustainable use of the Prut and Danube rivers. In this way, the EU Water Initiative Plus project helped for the establishment of a bilateral Moldovan-Ukrainian Dniester joint Commission and provided guidance for the creation of a Moldovan-Romanian-Ukrainian working group under the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River.
The EU4Environment Water and Data programme is now working with these three countries to foster international cooperation on this shared river basin by fostering exchanges of good practices at the scale of both the Danube River and the European Union. Coordinating the national RBMPs among the three neighbors is a prerequisite for a more sustainable and long-term development of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.