Q&A Interview: Poverty Reduction and Protecting the Environment

Sprinkler and drip irrigation systems in central Moldova. Signed in January 2010, Moldova’s MCC Compact includes investments to improve farming productivity and repair large irrigation systems. (Credit: Aurel Overcenco)

In light of Earth Day 2011, Sergiu Budesteanu, MCA-Moldova’s Environment and Social Assessment Director, answers a few questions about the Compact’s River Basin Management Activity, Moldova’s new Water Law, and why protecting the environment is so important to reducing poverty and helping Moldovan farmers.  For more information on Moldova’s MCC Compact, click here.

1. What are the main objectives of the River Basin Management Activity and how will it support the Compact’s long-term goal of promoting sustainable growth in Moldova’s agriculture sector?
Growing demand for water, and concerns about climate change and the increasing frequency of drought and floods require improved water resource planning and secure water rights. 

The activity will support the approval and implementation of a new Water Law and development of several secondary regulations institutionalizing a modern system of secure, long-term water rights for at least 12 years. Another component of the activity is providing institutional support and equipment (geographical information systems, hydrologic modeling, spatial databases and decision support tools) to governmental institutions to improve their ability to monitor water quality and quantity. The last and one of the most important aspects of the activity is building institutional capacity to engage all stakeholders in the creation of basin and sub-basin councils and developing management and action plans for a few river basins. 

2. What steps are you taking to work with stakeholders, within and outside the government of Moldova, who are important to improving the management of Moldova’s water resources?
Even before the Compact entered into force in September 2010, MCA-Moldova and MCC played an active role in engaging state organizations, research and development institutions, non-governmental organizations and international financing institutions in developing the river basin management concept. Five months after the commencement of implementation, we’ve organized conferences, seminars and workshops. Today, the activity is the product of collaboration among many actors in water resource management.  It is an important goal that Moldova wants and needs to achieve in order to ensure sustainable economic development.

3. What is MCA Moldova’s involvement in establishing a new Water Law?
In January 2010, a Water Law Working Group was established by the Ministry of Environment with representatives from all institutions involved in water management, data collection, and policy development, as well as from non-governmental organizations. MCA-Moldova is actively working together with the Ministry of Environment in all Water Law Working Group meetings. MCA-Moldova and the authors of the Water Law also participate in seminars, workshops and meetings with the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, farmer NGOs and organizations that promote and support private enterprises. We at MCA-Moldova offer continuous support to all stakeholders when there is a need for consultations and explanations regarding the Water Law.

4. When is the law expected to pass and how will it benefit Moldovans?
We estimate that the Government of Moldova will finalize the Water Law by the end of the summer. Once in force, the new law will benefit Moldovans in many ways. The new Water Law creates a legal framework for the effective management, protection and use of surface and ground water - based on assessment, planning and participatory decision making. This is a conceptual difference between how water resources were managed in the past when there was no planning and participatory decision making management compared to what is proposed in the new Water Law. Now, every water user or stakeholder will have a voice in the river basin and sub-basin committees when a decision about how to prioritize water use is taken.

The new Water Law establishes long term water use rights to promote investments that depend on the availability of water resources. With the new Water Law in force, every person investing in expanding its business or creating a new business can request an authorization for special water use for a minimum of 12 years.

Additionally, the new Water Law establishes the necessary water status protection to prevent further deterioration of water, protect and restore the aquatic environment and align water management and protection with European requirements. The River Basin Management Activity will support development of regulations that are necessary to implement the Water Law in order to ensure sufficient supply of good quality surface and ground water, which is needed for sustainable, balanced and equitable water use.

5. How will establishment of Water User Associations help protect the environment and improve the livelihoods of Moldovan farmers?
The main challenges to improving environmental stewardship in the agricultural sector are weak institutional capacity and low public awareness of environmental protection issues. The current legal framework that defines best practices in sustainable agriculture is well developed but there are no resources to support implementation due to the fact that agriculture is one of weakest sectors of the economy. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a process to privatize land was initiated. This resulted in the fragmentation of former collective farm land. As a consequence, most individual farmers did not have, and still do not have, sufficient funds to cultivate their land. This was also aggravated by the fact that most of the farmers lack basic knowledge to apply best practices in environment protection.

Now, with implementation of the Transition to High Value Agriculture Project we hope to change the situation. One key to success is creating a framework that allows for the formation of functional and sustainable Water User Associations. The Compact will help new Water User Associations develop and update Environmental and Social Management Plans that will identify the environmental impacts of irrigation and inform WUA members of actions that can be taken to reduce potential negative impacts on soil, surface and groundwater, and biodiversity. Considerable actions will be taken to increase the knowledge of each WUA member on the use of natural resources. It is our goal to have those WUAs receiving Compact support to spread their experience and knowledge to all farmers in the country and be a model of success.