The Kick-off conference of the WACOM project was held due to Covid-19 crisis via teleconference on October 16th, 2020 aiming that the wider public get the basic information on the project At the conference was gathered more than 70 participants from different sectors, i.e. the ministries, directorates, water agencies, hydrometeorological institutes, local authorities, enterprises, international organizations and project partners.
The conference started with the welcome speech of Dragan Zeljko, the Secretary of the International Sava River Basin Commission who stressed the importance of the WACOM project for implementation of three protocols to the Framework agreement on the Sava River Basin; Protocol on flood protection (entered in force in 2015), Protocol on prevention of water pollution caused by navigation (entered into force in 2017) and protocol on emergency situations (harmonization at the beginning of 2021). He mentioned that the outputs of the project were important for further development of Sava GIS and Sava Flood Forecasting and Warning System (Sava FFWS) and would enhance the warning procedures and non-structural measures defined in the Sava Flood Risk Management Plan.
After the welcome speech, Primož Banovec (UL- the Lead Partner), introduced the main facts of the WACOM project (main objectives, results, outputs). He stressed that the project was approved for co-financing by the Danube Transnational Programme under the Priority 2 and the programme priority specific objective SO 2.4 Improve preparedness for environmental risk management. He also stressed that the target groups which included national and local authorities, infrastructure and service providers, enterprises, and international organizations would be addressed in the project activities.
The particular technical work packages were presented by the project partners responsible for coordination of the each, i.e. Robert Mikac (AZUR) presentedWP T1- Explore and Define Joint Preparedness and Response, Primož Banovec (UL) presented WP T2 – Develop Joint Preparedness and response Toolbox, Ambrož Božiček (HESS) presented WP T3 – Verify Joint Preparedness and Response- pilot implementation, and Dušan Kostić (JCI) presented WP T4 – Strategy for the Implementation of Coordinated Preparedness and Response.
The panel discussion which followed the introduction of the project and the work packages was focused to the three main issues: (i) international cooperation in accident pollution and flood management, (ii) cross-sectoral cooperation in accident pollution and flood management and (iii) potential impact of the WACOM project to transboundary accident pollution and flood management. The panellists were the representatives from different fields. On navigation: Duška Kunštek (Ministarstvo mora, prometa i infrastrukture - HR), on water management: Mitja Bricelj (Ministrstvo za okolje in prostor- SI), on flood protection: Biljana Savić (JVP Srbijavode - RS), on civil protection: Almir Beridan (Ministarstvo Sigurnosti – BA) and on international: Adam Kovacs (ICPDR).
The panel discussion could be summarized in the three main messages:
- The social dimension of the WACOM project should be equally addressed as the technical dimension.
- It is important to establish the trust within different stakeholders and structures covering water management, flood protection, navigation, and civil protection.
- The WACOM project should ensure that the existing efforts which have already been lodged in development of Sava GIS and Sava FFWS (human, money and time) would be upgraded beyond the project timeframe (ensure sustainability) and beyond the basin (as an example for the other river basins in Europe).
Duška Kunštek: “The inland navigation is an environmental transport mode and the major pollution because of navigation is rare, it is obvious that there is no effective prevention and response to accidents without cooperation at the basin level”
Mitja Bricelj: “It is important to bring public into the whole story, not only the institutions. We need to enhance the public awareness that the transboundary cooperation in case in emergency situations and floods is needed.”
Biljana Savić: “Serbia as a country located at the most downstream part of the Sava River Basin is interested in further development of effective response mechanisms in case of floods and water pollution.”
Almir Beridan: “Laws and legislation are very different between the institutions and sectors and the trust should be a baseline for effective cooperation.”
Adam Kovacs: “The benefit of transboundary project is knowhow transfer and enhancement of good cooperation at national and international level and between different sectors i.e. navigation, hydropower, agriculture, water management etc.”.
At the end of the Kick-off conference the participants were invited to follow the project activities via web, Facebook and Twitter and actively participate in the planned workshops, trainings, and events at national and regional level.