STOP DROUGHT! EDUCATION IS A KEY FACTOR IN THE FIGHT AGAINST DROUGHT EFFECTS

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Educational activities were the main topic of the nationwide public consultation meeting on the Drought Effects Counteracting Plan (DECP) draft, which was held in Kraków. During the meeting, it was emphasized that it is vital to identify pro-ecological actions to be undertaken. The State Water Holding Polish Waters encourages everyone to participate in the subsequent meetings and invites anyone interested in the topic to submit applications and comments to the DECP project.

‘During the consultations, we refer to the social understanding of the importance of activities aimed at minimising the negative impact of drought. According to research, implementing nature protection programmes, including those concerning water, depends on the awareness of their purpose and usefulness among the public in up to 40% of cases. Every voice matters. High attendance at previous Stop drought! programme meetings is a good predictor of the entire project’s success’ – stated Wojciech Skowyrski, Deputy Director of the Flood and Drought Prevention Department at SWH Polish Waters in Kraków.

Projects which are part of the pro-ecological strategy developed by Polish Waters are currently being implemented in the area managed by the Regional Water Management Board in Kraków. Małgorzata Sikora, director of the RWMB in Kraków, stated that ‘this includes the process of restoring ecological continuity and implementing measures to improve the functioning of the free migration corridor of the Biała Tarnowska river. She explained that ‘the valley of that river is an important regional and international ecological corridor, which is part of the NATURE 2000 network of protected areas in Europe. Our activities will make it possible to maintain the good condition of water, and improve it wherever necessary, as well as ensure that the natural habitats and species comprising the ecosystem of the Biała river valley are protected in an appropriate way and remain stable’.

The key part of the DECP, i.e. a catalogue of 25 actions, includes five educational activities alone. Not only are they meant to familiarise the public with drought-related issues, but they are also supposed to convince the citizens that the nature of all of these initiatives is purely pro-ecological. The educational activities are meant to alleviate the concerns of various groups of stakeholders, including farmers, public administration employees, students and individual water users. As such, they cover a variety of aspects, ranging from a good practice codes on reusing water in various sectors of the economy. These include farming, through changes in the education system, to specialised seminars, workshops and consulting.

As part of the Stop Drought! project, a countrywide survey regarding the occurrence of drought in Poland was conducted in 2018 and 2019. It resulted in the discovery of a significant factor that may affect the implementation of planned activities and investment projects. Even though more than 56% of the people participating in the survey indicated that water shortages do in fact occur, only 27.2% of the respondents believe that action should be taken to prevent the effects of drought. ‘What convinced us about the necessity of introducing robust educational measures was the fact that so few people see the need for working to minimise the impact of drought. Our extensive approach to the issue of building public awareness of the threat that droughts pose to Poland, as well as what can be done to ensure that their severity is limited, should be enough to convince the public to accept the proposed changes and realise that implementing the DECP programme is indeed a must. It also ought to ensure that various social groups strive to introduce appropriate measures to protect water resources in the future’ – explained director Skowyrski.

Out of the fifteen debates on the aspects of drought prevention activities organised as part of the DECP project, seven meetings have already taken place. The public consultation phase will last until February 2020 (visit www.stopsuszy.pl for more information on these meetings).