Small Rivers – Big Challenges Project Ended with Openings of Refurbished Parks

The ribbon-cutting ceremonies took place in two parks, in Germanovichi and Voropaevo villages, that abut the Disna River and its tributary Zarezhanka respectively. The openings became the last events of the Small Rivers Big Challenges project that aimed to protect the Disna basin from contamination and make this region a better place for recreation.Interakcia Foundation was the lead partner in the project. 
In addition to the openings of the parks, on September 29, the refurbished embankment of the Krivaya River was presented in Glubokoe. New gazebos and benches were installed in the parks, the landscapes were also improved, while the old stone bridge was repaired in Voropaevo. 
The red ribbons were cut by local officials and Elena Rakova, Manager for Environment and Energy at the Delegation of the European Union to Belarus. The EU provided the bulk of the funding for the The Small Rivers – Big Chllenges project: 90% of 331.000 euro.
Now Voropaevo, Germanovichi and Glubokoe have great places where one can enjoy the views of the rivers. In addition, the parks can be used by students from school ecological clubs who can now conduct there chemical analyses of the water from the rivers. 
Twenty one school ecological clubs appeared thanks to the Small Rivers – Big Challenges project. The students participating in the clubs upload the results of their research on the rivers to the website – www.reka-disna.org. Besides, the heads of the clubs cooperate closely with the local authorities, the district inspections for natural resources and environmental protection, and ecological clubs that are formed from adult activists monitoring the ecological condition of the rivers.
Interakcia Foundation, International Environmental Public Association Priroda i My, Glubokoe, Postavy and Sharkovschina District Executive Committees were the partners in the realization of the initiative.
Moreover, at the end of September, the three regions that participated in the project adopted the 5-year plans for activities aimed at the sustainable development of the small rivers. Each such documents enlists objects whose impacts on the environment should be monitored. These are farms and industrial enterprises producing waste that may contaminate the water in the rivers.
Also, the plans present prospective activities of the school ecological clubs. Such activities include cleanings along the riverbanks, special lessons on environmental topics, and environmental contests. Finally, the three documents provide specific measures (e.g. installation of lockers, sunshades and benches) how to create comfortable recreational facilities along the small rivers.
A unique result of the Small Rivers – Big Challenges program is that it helped to prepare first Belarusian passports of small rivers. Earlier, only bigger rivers and lakes had had such documents. Each river passport contains data on physical, chemical and biological features of the rivers. Four small rivers received them: Berezovka, Myadelka, Mnyuta, Yanka. The documents underwent scientific expertise that ended at the beginning of October. However, the Yanka's passport is still being finalized due to the very dense river network in the area.
However, not only experts were involved in the preparation of the passports and the plans for activities aimed at the sustainable development of the small rivers. The participants of the school ecological clubs and, of course, their teachers collected a great deal of data on the small rivers that helped to describe them thoroughly and conceive protective measures for the Disna basin. Such protection from waste has a great importance for the entire Baltic region, since the Disna itself is a tributary of the Western Dvina (Daugava) that flows into the Baltic Sea.
The Small Rivers – Big Challenges project is officially over now, but it is too earlier to draw conclusions. I hope the initiative will continue and concern even bigger number of rivers in Vitebsk region, that even more school students will be monitoring the rivers. Perhaps some of them will then become ecologists or biologists and will be dealing with the issue of river protection on professional level. Furthermore, there are some ideas how to develop green economy in the region, more exactly, how to teach youngsters to run “green” enterprises. I am sure that the project has very good chances to continue in the future,” – commented Irina Ivanova, Head of the Small Rivers – Big Challenges Project.
9 October 2015 

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