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    Small Rivers – Big Challenges: Working Together to Protect and Develop the Small Rivers of the Disna Basin

    May 2013 – September 2015

    Interakcia Foundation was the lead partner in the project

    Project partners: Administrations of the Glubokoe, Postavy and Sharkovschina districts; International Environmental Public Association ‘Priroda i My’ (‘Nature and us’).

    Budget: € 331 000; EU’s contribution – € 297 750 (90% of total).

    Funding programme: Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development.

    Location: Glubokoe, Postavy, Sharkovschina districts of Vitebsk region, northern Belarus.

    The project involved active citizens in the environmental protection of the tributaries of the Disna River.

    Thanks to the project, teachers and schoolchildren in three Belarusian districts, members of 21 ecological posts and 15 school ecological clubs, joined forces with local authorities to protect and improve environmental condition of local small rivers.

    The project was funded by the European Union.

    Why is it important to protect small rivers?
    Small rivers are essential to the agriculture and eco-tourism in the region. For the local population, small rivers are an important source of drinking water.
    Low self-purification capacity of small rivers makes them vulnerable to human activities. Logging, effluents from farms, and plants threaten small rivers and lead to their extinction.
    Protection of small rivers in the Disna basin has an international impact: the Disna itself is a tributary of the Daugava (Western Dvina) that flows into the Baltic Sea.
    Local authorities do not have enough resources to deal with these problems effectively. Luckily, active citizens, including the youngest ones, do care about nature and are eager to assist local authorities in river monitoring and cleaning.


    Thanks to the project, for the first time in Belarus, in 2015 Sharkovschina hosted a Small Rivers Festival. The festival gathered more than 1,500 guests!


    The agenda of the festival included workshops, contests, quests and even theatre shows on the topic of small rivers and environmental protection. Guests of the festival had an opportunity to test water from wells and small rivers and find out whether the water contains nitrates, nitrites, and phosphates.

    Project results:
    More than 400 teachers and schoolchildren became participants of the school ecological clubs and ecological posts in Glubokoe, Postavy, and Sharkovschina districts of Vitebsk region.
    Around 100 classes about the need to protect small rivers were conducted at schools of these districts. Students learned about the role of small rivers in maintaining biological diversity, ecological and efficient ways of using water resources.
    More than 70 schoolchildren took part in an eco-camp in Germanovichi village (Sharkovschina district) and learned how to identify water contamination with the help of the compact chemical laboratories, which the eco-clubs received thanks to the project.
    For the first time in Belarus, four small rivers - Berezovka, Mniuta, Myadelka, and Yanka – received their own ‘passports’! Prior to the project, ‘river passports’, which contain physical, biological, and chemical indicators, had been created only for large Belarusian rivers and lakes.
    The project sponsored renovation works in historical parks located along small rivers in the Postavy and Sharkovschina district, as well as the river embankment in Glubokoe.
    School eco-clubs joined Zrobim! campaign (part of Let's Do It! movement), a national massive clean-up. Thanks to the financial support provided by the Sustainable Development Week 2015, the participants of the clubs researched 21 kilometers of the riverbanks and collected 50 large bags of garbage along 10 rivers.
    Sustainable Development Plan for the tributaries of the Disna River was adopted, a "green blueprint" for protecting small rivers and developing their recreational potential.