Rational for Project Design. Project design was undertaken through a participatory process that first identified existing and anticipated threats to biodiversity conservation and their underlying causes, and then developed project components to address these root causes. The linkages between project components, threats causes and desired project outcomes is summarized in Table A of Annex 2. Selection of project demonstration sites was undertaken by the national biodiversity steering committee. Sites were chosen to include natural ecosystems of international importance, together with examples of different conservation management needs and strategies to address them (national park, natural park, forest park/sustainable forest management). Experience gained at these different project demonstration sites will be replicated, during the second half of project implementation, in the context of a prioritized action plan for establishment of an effective national protected area network, and a systemic approach to forest management planning throughout the Carpathian range, which the project will develop.
Without Project Scenario. Regardless of the Government's commitment to biodiversity conservation, without the establishment of a effective protected area system, biodiversity-rich natural ecosystems would not be protected from the major transition-related threats that are anticipated over the short and medium term. Government would be unable to commit sufficient budget to establish a functioning protected area management system, and existing Government and NGO groups concerned with conservation would remain weak, ineffective, uncoordinated, and isolated. In the absence of a protected area system, expected impacts (resulting from changing land ownership and land use, including forestry and tourism) would result in loss of biodiversity, and ecological corridors necessary to maintain viability of populations and ecosystems may be irreversibly disrupted. The project will, therefore, lead the way to establishing an effective protected area system.
Project Alternatives. Project preparation considered and rejected the following alternatives:
Establishment of a New Government Institution for Protected Area Management. This was rejected on grounds of cost and efficiency. Almost all Romanian forests are currently owned and managed by the State, which has considerable institutional capacity for forest management in the field. Consequently, rather than establish new institutions, Government intends that the project will build the new skills (in conflict resolution, inter-sectoral and participatory planning, and conservation management) needed by existing institutions in order to address their changing roles. The project will fund the incremental cost of building and demonstrating the necessary new skills and institutional adjustments.
NGO Management of Protected Areas. Project preparation also explored the possibility of delegating responsibility for field implementation to an NGO, whose financial sustainability would be ensured through establishment of an investment fund for protected area management. This suggestion was unacceptable to Government on the grounds that existing NGOs have no capacity for protected area management, and sufficient financial resources to capitalize the fund could not be secured.
Management of Protected Areas by a Private Company. The preparation consultants considered this innovative suggestion, which proposed that landowners and other stakeholders be awarded tradable shares in a company contracted by Government to implement the protected area management plan. Government rejected this options as too radical, and were reluctant to consider devolving responsibility for protected area management to the private sector in the absence of an adequate legal and regulatory framework.
Experience from similar initiatives in Eastern Europe and around the world suggests that:
The project will incorporate these experiences and build on them specifically by
In order to implement the GEF pilot phase Danube Delta Biodiversity Project, which is currently being successfully implemented by MWFEP, Government established and staffed the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority. In preparation for the Biodiversity Conservation Management Project, MWFEP has assigned four professional staff to work full time on project preparation activities through till project effectiveness. In addition, the NFA has agreed to fund the 19 new PMA staff that will implement the project at the field level. The MoF has committed $2.4 million toward the incremental costs of project implementation. NFA will contribute an additional $900,000 towards project costs, and has established the SPA, which will work in close collaboration with DNBC to implement project activities and replicate best practice experience at forest biodiversity conservation sites throughout the country.
Historically Government has demonstrated the intention to establish a protected area network and conserve biodiversity, but has been unable to implement this commitment due to lack of financial resources. For example, in 1990, the Romania issued an order identifying 11 National Parks and three biosphere reserves. In 1994, the number of potential protected areas was increased to more than 1,000 when MWFEP requested County administrations to identify sites for conservation management. The Government also ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity in August 1994. Between 1992 and 1995, three major papers identifying environmental priority issues were prepared: (Environmental Strategy Paper; the 1994 Environmental Protection Strategy, and the 1995 National Environmental Action Program). The National Strategy affirms Romania's commitment to sustainable natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. In 1996, with the support of a GEF grant and the assistance of the World Bank, the Government prepared a National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan. Government is committed to implementing the strategy, and the project will provide the resources and technical guidance needed to do so.
At the local level, multi-stakeholder associations have already been established to collaborate on conservation priorities at two of the three project sites. At the third project site, where bison have significance in local mythology, there is considerable local community and land owner (NFA and the Church) enthusiasm for the proposed bison reintroduction and management program that the project will implement in collaboration with all stakeholders.
The World Bank is well qualified to prepare and supervise a forest biodiversity conservation project in Romania, and GEF resources are of critical importance to this initiative. While this project would be the first Bank/GEF operation to focus on conservation and protected area management in forest ecosystems in Romania, the project would benefit from experience gained in implementation of the GEF pilot phase project, the Danube Delta Biodiversity Project, and from other pilot phase GEF/World Bank biodiversity projects focused on protected area and conservation management of forest ecosystems in Belarus, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and operational phase projects under preparation in Turkey and Georgia.
In addition to the Bank's experience in GEF biodiversity projects and forestry operations throughout the region, the Banks involvement in the 1993 Romania Forestry Sector Review, together with ongoing analytical work in the forestry sector, provide an objective perspective of ways to demonstrate how biodiversity conservation could be mainstreamed and incorporated in reform of the forestry sector.
While a number of international and Romanian environmental NGOs are active in Romania and the region, there is little coordination or synergy among their different activities. The GEF project will provide a framework for productive collaboration among these groups towards achieving the overall and mutual goal of conservation of Carpathian ecosystems.