Lessons from the Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe Basin Management Program

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Good neighbour policies

The lake is called ‘Peipsi' in Estonian and ‘Chudskoe' in Russian. It is the fourth largest lake in Europe and is situated between Estonia and Russia. "People care about the lake because they use it for fishing and swimming, and its aquifers are a valuable source of drinking water", said Natalia Alexeeva, project manager at UNDP.

The lake faces a number of challenges, including: how to reduce the overabundance of nutrients that causes excessive algae growth and hurts water quality; how to control the amount of fishing so as to prevent the extinction of fish such as the vendace; and how to share the sizeable underground aquifers in order to ensure a stable source of fresh water.

Estonia and Russia have recognized the need for cooperation to address these issues. In 1997, the two countries signed a treaty declaring their intention to better protect and utilize the lake's resources. In order to better share joint waters, the two countries have set up a commission to agree acceptable levels of water use.

A Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis was conducted in 2004, which identified the challenges that need to be addressed. A Management Programme was then developed between the two countries. This work is funded by the Global Environmental Facility and implemented by UNDP. The executing agency is the Peipsi Centre for Transboundary Cooperation.

The programme will address nutrient pollution by working to improve wastewater treatment facilities by the lake and create ‘buffer' zones where industrial activities cannot be conducted by the shore. It will also aim to curtail illegal fishing by enacting higher penalties and impounding the boats used for this purpose. It has already organized a series of events to publicize its activities before local governments and the population at large.


Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe Basin Management Programme

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

Russia, Estonia


The Estonian and Russian governments have signed a bilateral intergovernmental agreement on the use and protection of their transboundary waters in 1997. According to the agreement, the Estonian-Russian Transboundary Water Commission (further the Joint Commission) was established. This project is a part of priority actions under the Joint Commission plan.

UNDP was an implementing agency for the GEF MSP (via UNDP-Russia office) and greatly contributed to the project activities and supported cooperation between the countires. Peipsi Center for Transboundary Cooperation , having own offices in both Russia and Estonia, acted as an executing agency under the NGO-execution modality and proved to have sufficient resources to manage the project.


Ludmila Khorosheva

Elena Armand, Head of Environment Unit, UNDP Russia

Natalia Alexeeva, UNDP/GEF Project Manager, Center for Transboundary Cooperation, Russia


Background and Significance

Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe, sometimes called Peipus, is the fourth largest and the biggest transboundary lake in Europe. It is situated on the border between the Republic of Estonia and the Russia, furthermore – it is situated on the border between the European Union and the Russian Federation.

Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe basin thus is “shared” in several meanings: its surface waters are jointly used by two countries, Estonia and Russia (i.e. the EU and Russia) for fishing, hydropower production, transportation etc., than its joint groundwaters are used for water supply on two sides of the border, fish stocks are exploited by the local population and fishermen etc.

The Lake Peipsi drainage basin has a size of almost 45,000 km2 and thus approximately 12 times larger than the lake surface itself. The basin is shared by Russia (59 %), Estonia (33 %), Latvia (8 %).

The following 4 major perceived transboundary problems were identified by the Transboundary diagnostic analysis of lake Peipsi/Chudskoe:

  • Eutrophication of Lake Peipsi (including riverine loads)
  • Fishery management
  • Groundwater pollution and water distribution in the Narva River region
  • Mining pollution from oil-shale activities

The main water related environmental issue of concern in the transboundary Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe region is eutrophication. Eutrophication has influenced the biogeochemical cycles leading to undesirable states of nutrient concentrations in the Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe and secondary impacts upon fish stocks.

The most important planning and development issue concerning Lake Peipsi is implementation of the joint Lake Peipsi Management Programme. In co-operation with Estonian and Russian governments, regional and local authorities, private companies and public, the Programme has been completed in 2006 and should be implemented in coming years. This Basin Management Programme is made on the base of National Water Basin Management Plans for respectively Russian and Estonian part of the basin. This work has been supported by funds coming from Global Environmental Facility, EU LIFE and TACIS programmes in the frames of international projects.

Goal and Objectives

The main goal of the proposed FSP is to support implementation of the Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe Transboundary Basin Water Management Programme, already developed under the previous GEF project, via carrying out and supporting transboundary activities in the region aimed at improving water quality in the basin and transboundary cooperation in the region.

Project objectives are:

  • Partial implementation of the Basin Management Programme, supported by the gap analysis regarding the internal nutrient load and in-lake processes and scientific support to the Programme implementation;
  • Capacity building for stakeholders on the basin level, including joint monitoring activities, joint data processing and compilation, databases;
  • Information dissemination, raising public awareness in the field of joint water management and public engagement into Joint Programme implementation.

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions


There was an urgent need to develop a priority list of common environmental objectives for the whole transboundary lake water basin that should coordinate national environmental objectives and develop a common denominator acceptable by the two governments that is to be addressed by cooperative efforts of the governments of Estonia and Russia with coordination provided by the Estonian – Russian Joint Transboundary Water Commission.

On the transboundary basin level, preparation of the joint measures, based on the common environmental objectives for the whole transboundary water basin, is coordinated across the border through developing an umbrella Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe Basin Management Program for the whole transboundary water basin. The program addresses environmental issues of importance for the whole transboundary water basin and includes practical recommendations for the Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe nutrient load reduction and prevention, and the sustainable conservation of habitats and eco-systems in the cross-border regional context.

This Programme is a first Transboundary Basin Management Program, developed for the external EU borders, taking into account EU WFD requirements and national legislation. Being officially approved by the Estonian – Russian Joint Transboundary Water Commission, the Programme forms an base for the future joint actions in the basin.


Project partners: Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources and Estonian Ministry of the Environment.
GEF Implementing Agency: UNDP
Peipsi Center for Transboundary Cooperation - executing agency
Joint Estonian-Russian Transboundary Water Commission - major beneficiary


Estonia and Russia - external EU border.
More details on the location and Peipsi region are at Peipsi portal


2003 - 2006, next stage is planned for 2007-2010


The project was completed according to the project document. Please, refer to the project reports for more details.

Results and Impact

Joint Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe Transboundary Basin Water Management Programme, developed under the previous MSP implemented in 2003 – 2005, laid the basis for further actions which need to be performed in the basin for combating the eutrophication and enhancing bilateral cooperation in joint transboundary water management.

Lessons for Replication

  • Need to coordinate all efforts with other projects/initiatives, carried out in parallel in the region
  • Need to split project activities (cooperation agreements) among different projects and information about such differentiation for wider audience
  • Changes in the UN financial system
  • Discussion on the need for the Joint Management Programme
  • The lack of agreed procedures under the Commission was decreasing the effectiveness of the project.

These challenges were overcome via: cooperation agreements and working meetings with other initiatives and projects, using adapting management and active UNDP support to the project, active discussions with stakeholders on the project implementation, close cooperation with the Commission and water authorities.

NGO partnership with governments was successful in terms of trust-building among the project partners and aside activities, generated by the project. Peipsi Council was established as a multi-stakeholders forum for dialogue in the region. For the future actions, active cooperation among different interest groups are requested in order to reach common understanding of the needed actions.

  • Coordination require a lot of time and demands extra resources in the water plans
  • However, “mixed” activities (with other projects) are very useful and effective
  • Experience exchange is very useful – with other transboundary regions and projects
  • Information should be disseminated as wide as possible since some groups of interests are still not informed
  • A lot of seminars and meetings, although often being regarded as a waste of time, are the ground for building the mutual understanding and contacts.

In general, this project was needed as having transboundary character and supporting bilateral cooperation in the region.

Main Results

Already performed actions/results:

Management Programme – prepared and adopted by the Joint Commission, joint monitoring expeditions and winter sampling, report with recommendations
Reports: TDA, Strategy of Nutrient Load Reduction in Estonia, feasibility studies on eco-tourism and eco-farming for all lake, Public Participation Plan
Capacity building - a number of seminars, trainings, joint meetings, Peipsi Forum, Peipsi Council, Small Grant Programs. Commission support – equipment purchase, support to one meeting and publications. Peipsi museum – Peipsi tuba (room) in Kallaste and virtual museum in Pskov.
Environmental Education and Environmental Information - education program program is ready. Pilot projects are implemented:Infrastructure project in Rapina (Waste water and drinking supply development plan), Camp ground in Estonia and Springs of Maltsevskaya valley –infrastructure and information stands
Numerous publications:Booklets, brochures, bulletins etc. Support to Peipsi web-portal and project web-site Voluntary monitoring in Estonia, summer camps etc.

Planned outcomes (for FSP):

  • Partial implementation of the Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe Transboundary Basin Water Management Programme;
  • Sound scientific base for the long-term water management is in place;
  • Raised capacities of the stakeholders;
  • Joint monitoring activities are supported and carried out;
  • Joint data processing and databases are established;
  • Information exchange and networking is fully operational;
  • Public/local stakeholders is actively engaged into the Programme implementation.

Outlook (Conclusions and Next Steps)

Implementation is crucial for all Strategies so for the planned project we will aim at the concrete actions and support to the further development in this transboundary region, giving a strong emphasis on cooperation among different parties.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

Reality check could be done via Mid-term and Final evaluations which have been carried out under the project. Reports are avaliable on request.

Timeframe & Status

MSP - completed in 2006, PDF B is under development for the full-size project aimed at the Programme implementation


See also

Water Knowledge Fair 2006

Development and implementation of the Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe Basin Management Program

Kazakhstan - NGO Zhalgas-Counterpart - Civil Society Support Centre in Almaty

Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan - Formation of a Chu-Talas Rivers Commission

Peipsi Center for Transboundary Cooperation

Development and implementation of the Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe Basin Management Program

External Resources

Joint Estonian-Russian Transboundary Water Commission

Estonian Ministry of Environment

Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation

Lake Peipsi/Chudskoe case study for the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)/United Nations World Water Development Report

Peipsi Portal

UNDP/GEF Project web-site

Integrated Transboundary Water Management in Theory and Practice - A New book about integrated transboundary water management in Lake Peipsi

Interviewees and Key Contacts

Please, refer to project web-site for all relevant contacts


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