A participatory approach to water governance has always been a central axis of the work of the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP), which proposed the creation of a mechanism that would strengthen the involvement of all stakeholders, especially local bodies, in the decision-making process for the management of the water level of Lesser Prespa Lake. Consequently, a participatory advisory body, consisting of 10 local, regional and national stakeholders, the Wetland Management Committee (WMC) was established as part of the work of an SPP LIFE project in 2008, under the auspices of the Management Body for the Prespa National Park (MBPNP), and has been technically supported by the SPP throughout the years of its operation. Its members included the MBPNP, SPP, the environment ministry, the Decentralised Authority for Epirus-Western Macedonia (Department of Water and Department of Environmental Design of Western Macedonia), Municipality of Prespa, Local Agency for Land Reclamation, the local stockbreeders’ association and fishery associations, and it has formed the main forum for decision-making on wetland management and its aim has been to propose annual measures, taking into account both the development of primary sector activities and wetland conservation.
The WMC met every year between 2008 2022 and collectively decided on a number of critical issues concerning the wetland, such as the management of the sluicegate controlling the water level of Lesser Prespa Lake. The SPP participated in this frum for permanent dialogue and was responsible for drafting annual reports reviewing water management actions and suggesting appropriate management proposals for the next hydrological year. These proposals were evaluated by the WMC, which, following a discussion, concluded with the corresponding recommendations to the MBPNP, which took the final decisions on the management of the lake’s water level and all other wetland management issues.
The management of Lesser Prespa Lake’s water level was thus carried out by an innovative governance system that promoted dialogue between the competent authorities and local bodies, fostered the creation of common perceptions and consensus regarding the values and management of this critical natural resource and empowered the local community to effectively participate in water management planning. Since the new regime of protected area governance in Greece, consisting of Management Units, was made operational in 2022 the future of the WMC has been uncertain. In preparation for a period of transition in decision-making the SPP prepared five-year guidelines for wetland management in Lesser Prespa, which were adopted and approved by the 15th and currently final meeting of the WMC in early 2022.