Drin Information Management System: a new data tool for transboundary cooperation in the Drin River Basin

The first platform with harmonized data for the Drin River’s environment, societies and economies has just been launched. The Integrated Management System is a free online tool available to all that allows regular information exchange among competent institutions in the Drin basin, facilitating effective transboundary cooperation.

Collection of scientific data from the Drin Riparians on a national level

The Drin River Basin is comprised of an extensive network of water bodies that pass through Albania, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Greece. It is a highly complex system of 5 sub-basins, 2 transboundary rivers and 3 transboundary lakes, with a remarkable groundwater network comprised of karst cavities and aquifers with complex groundwater-surface water interaction and interdependency.

While national authorities collect a wealth of complex data associated with the status of different segments of the Drin system (water quality, hydrology, ecosystems, socio-economic, etc.) nationally, this pattern, however, does not support transboundary cooperation for the management of the river’s natural resources. Neighboring countries have limited access to these national data, which is neither collected nor stored in a harmonized manner by all.

This had been recognized as an obstacle to transboundary cooperation already back in  2011, when the Ministers of Water from the five Riparians  committed to “improving access to comprehensive data and adequate information to fully understand the current state of the environment and water resources and the hydrological system (including surface and coastal waters) as well as ecosystems of the Drin Basin”. (Drin MoU Tirana, 25 November 2011) They also agreed that “one of the priority actions to address this concern is the “improvement of information exchange through the establishment of a system for regular exchange of relevant information among competent authorities of each party” (Article 4: c).

The Drin IMS – collecting scientific data on a basin level

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The GEF Drin Project “Enabling Transboundary Cooperation and Integrated Water Resources Management in the extended Drin River Basin”, played a catalytic role in promoting the creation of the IMS. A number of preliminary analyses of the Drin basin’s environmental situation were conducted and were subsequently presented to the Expert Working Group (EWG), responsible for Monitoring and Information Exchange. As a result and following the EWG’s advice, the Drin Core Group, the body with the mandate to coordinate actions for the implementation of the Drin MoU, decided to design a tool that would satisfy the need to store and share comprehensive scientific data on the Drin basin level.  

After two years of data collection from national institutions and careful software design, the Drin Information Management System was born. It is developed as a GIS based free online tool available in all Drin languages that allows for easy collection, exchange and presentation of data concerning the Drin’s basin’s environment, societies and economies. Data available on the IMS have been collected through the implementation of the  GEF Drin project,  from relevant projects implemented in the region in the past 10 years and official national data series derived from national monitoring programs (water quality and quantity, weather parameters and others). 

An innovative tool that supports transboundary cooperation

The Drin IMS has different map layers providing information on environmental and socio-economics parameters. Users can choose to utilize any of the background layers (hydrography, hydrology, roads, population count, land use, etc.) or/and specific ones (historical record on water quality and quantity at any monitoring point, pollution register, protected areas etc.)  It allows all users to upload, download data in different forms, formats and maps, including reports tailored according to common EU reporting requirements.

The national authorities of all Riparians, already involved in the provision of data to the IMS development team, upon its official launch decided to officially allocate resources to its daily operation. They thus appointed a country administrator who will be in charge for keeping the system’s data updated, ensuring also the accuracy of content and data. It is expected that the IMS will expand to new functionalities (including live data) in the future.

Designed in a user-friendly way, the tool is accessible to all. Primarily, it is of use for the everyday work of the Drin Riparian ministries and institutions responsible for the management of the Drin sub-basins and their natural resources, members of the Drin Core Group, international institutions and developmental partners providing support to the Drin Riparians.

The IMS is the first platform with comprehensive sets of data for the entire Drin basin. Designed in a user-friendly manner, it allows users to insert their own data, create a map and extract customized reports, a function that no other platform offers. From a broader perspective, the IMS is an invaluable tool to transboundary cooperation. By allowing the compilation and comparison of comprehensive data sets on a basin level, the IMS enables both national and transboundary bodies to perform evidence-based management that will jointly address common threats and opportunities, promoting sustainable development in the shared Drin basin.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

The GEF Drin Project, was implemented by the United Nations Development Program, and executed by the Global Water Partnership (GWP), through GWP-Med, and UNECE as partner.

The Drin Information Management system is available at dringis.org and is currently maintained by the Secretariat of the DCG (GWP-Med) and administered by the representatives of the Drin Riparians.