The main objective of the project is to improve the management of regional inland waterways and the regions adjacent to these waterways by promoting an integrated, sustainable and participatory approach.
The project aims at developing recommendations for improved and state of the art governance models that will create a sound basis for more integrated regional policies to boost the socio/economic development of inland waterways and adjacent areas in a balanced way, through respecting nature and environment (e.g. by cross fertilising WFD River Basin Management with land based management of the regions adjacent to regional inland waterways).
There is an increased recognition of the contribution that regional inland waterways make to tourism development, sustainable transport, economic growth and the quality of life of the inhabitants of adjacent areas. As a result, waterways are being restored and revitalised throughout Europe as a focus for economic & social development. The increased multifunctional use of regional waterways (including for freight transport, supporting the Naiades initiative for main transport arteries) can have negative impacts on the quality of the environment (e.g. more pollution and waste water problems affecting aquatic ecology, unique habitats & drinking water resources).
Climate change requires specific policies and approaches to manage regional waterways to tackle problems linked to periodic surplus and shortage of water. The socio/economic benefit of being a region adjacent to regional waterways is an opportunity which requires up to date governance structures and models and management that takes into account the environmental impacts and climatological effects of the increased multifunctional use of regional inland waterways.
The project involves an intensive transfer of know-how on management strategies and regional policies concerning how to deal with the conflicting interests that will arise from an increased mf-use, with a focus on aspects for which local/regional authorities are responsible or play an important role in the policy cycle (Governance & environmental policies). By creating better conditions for a mixed use of regional waterways, taking into account environmental constraints, WFD, and the effects of climate change, the project will support the sustainable development of waterway regions.
Although not the main goal of the project, Waterways Forward will also contribute to the EU sustainability goals on transport. The partnership, including partners from old & new Member States, is balanced. Each partner has specific expertise & knowledge of great importance for the others, and these complementarities guarantee a maximisation of results. All partners have the capacity to define and/or influence regional policies.
The implementation of the Waterways Forward is close to the end. The project focused so far on the assessment and comparison of partners' regions, on the sharing of their good practices in inland waterway management and on the action planning based on the experiences gained and lessons learnt.
The major Kick Off event was organised in March 2010 in The Hague (NL) to inform the wider public about the project. Two Thematic Groups (one dealing with Governance and one with Environment & Climate Change) have been set up to support interregional knowledge transfer and meets regularly during the implementation.The Thematic Groups first agreed on a joint methodology for the Regional Analyses, which were carried out during summer 2010 focusing on the identification of strengths and weaknesses of partners' regions.
The Analyses were compiled into a project level Interregional Analysis summarizing main topics and transferable good practices (demand and supply). The 46 identified practices of the partnership were collected into a Good practice guide, so called DemoToolbox, introducing initiatives like the “Place a Stone in a Stream” in Latvia on the community involvement in water quality and biodiversity improvement, as well climate change effect mitigation through innovative low cost method. The sharing of practices was realised via transfer visits to Spain, France, Serbia, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Wales and Finland, exchanging knowledge among 106 participants on topics like the different types of the management of inland waterways in Hungary or in France, the cross border cooperation initiatives of Finland, the innovative tools for the touristic promotion of multifunctional use of waterways in Ferrara or the preservation of cultural heritage in Wales. The results of the transfer visits were compiled into a Synthesis report in the summer of 2011, which served as a basis for the good practice transfer and policy improvement phase.
Several tangible results of the knowledge transfer phase are already foreseen, like the “Waterway and Waterfront - Guidance for physical planning of water recourses use” of Vidzeme (Latvia). These Guidelines include recommendations for planning the sustainable and multifunctional use of waterways (including zoning of waterways for different uses), provide examples how to calculate parametric values of ecosystem services and its use in planning practice, also summarize good practices with respect to the use of waterways and waterfront. The innovative touristic promotion tools of Ferrara (Italy) gave new ideas to the Municipality of Brzeg Dolny (Poland) to promote the multifunctional use of Odra river in the region. As a next step, Master Classes were organized in Autumn 2011 to link the previous knowledge transfer phase with the regional action planning phase of the project. The action planning was fulfilled at the summer of 2012 providing a clear overview to be adopted by the participating regions also to develop funding schemes for investments. The planning phase was assisted by the Virtual Debate Platform of partners and by the involvement of relevant regional and local actors via the regular Regional Stakeholder Platform meetings in order to ensure bottom- up involvement. Based on the input from the activities so far, the project has drafted Joint Policy Recommendations in order to create awareness of the sustainable development potential of inland waterways and adjacent regions at all policy levels. In addition, a draft Governance model serving as a basis for better coordinated national and regional regulations has been drafted. These main documents will be finalized and presented to wide audience at the Final Conference and Exhibition of the project in November 2012 in Paris.