Lithuania - Sustainable Development of the Nemunas Delta Supported by the Community of Minge Village


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Build it and they will come

Tourist flock to the Curronian Lagoon and the Nemunas Delta in Western Lithuania, with their bronze coastline, lush pine forests, and fish-filled channels. But until recently they stayed away from Minge - a picturesque fishing village on the Lagoon - for one very basic reason.

"The village had no facilities to handle wastewater", said Inge Ringailaite, programme assistant for the Global Environmental Fund's Small Grant Programme (GEF SGP).

"If they wanted to handle boat traffic, they needed to build bathrooms and showers and other such facilities".

Wishing to attract tourists ­- and too small to attract federal funds - the 10 families that make up Minge sought advice from GEF SGP.

GEF SGP helped the community in developing and funding a project to build an environmentally friendly wastewater treatment plant in Minge, which is susceptible to water pollution because its groundwater supplies are close to the surface.

The wastewater system, built between 2001 and 2003, consists of three large septic tanks, a sand-reed filter and piping connecting the facility to homes and the boat club. With a capacity of 14.5 cubic metres per day, the system can serve 60 residents and the flow of tourists.

"This was a small project, but without the wastewater facilities the village couldn't have moved forward with bigger ones", says Ringailaite.

Once the wastewater treatment plant was in place, the European Union, through its Phare programme, funded the construction of piers for small boats and yachts. Three farms opened themselves up to tourists, and a few bed-and-breakfast inns sprung up. The local boating club installed washing machines, bathrooms and other facilities that needed to be connected to a sewage system.

Villagers contributed their own time and labour to the project, laying pipes and installing the sceptic tanks and sand-reed filters themselves. They saved money by using local clay and wood and less expensive plastic filters.

Lithuania's National Centre for Hygiene approved the technology used in the project, paving the way for the use of similar technology in four other villages.

Other participants in the project included the European Coastal Union (EUCC), the Coalition Clean Baltic, and Klaipeda University.


Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme project in Lithuania

Sustainable Development of the Nemunas Delta Supported by the Community of Minge Village


Grantee: Kintai saling club "Mariu bures"

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

Lithuania, Silute District, Minge Village


The project was financed by Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP). GEF SGP provided US$ 20,455. GEF SGP provided a substantial technical support during the project preparation and implementation.

Cofinancer Cash In-kind

Kintai Sailing Club “Mariu bures” (grantee) US$ 900 US$ 3,700

Community of Minge Village (beneficiary) US$ 1,000 US$ 5,000

European Union for Clean Coastline (partner NGO) US$ 6,400 US$ 2,550

Total US$ 8,300 US$ 11,250

Project start: November 2001 Project end: October 2004


Inga Ringailaite, GEF-SGP


Background and Significance


Prior to the project, the villages situated in the lower reaches of the rivers Nemunas and Minija had no wastewater treatment facilities. Wastewater was discharged into catch pits from which they would get into the soil and directly into the rivers. The rapidly increasing tourist flow posed a threat to the sensitive ecosystem of the Nemunas delta. The lack of water treatment plants slowed down the development of tourism in the village of Minge, frequented by small boats. However being a small village Minge could not receive financial support for the construction of the wastewater treatment plant from the national sources as not falling under the formal criteria of priorities.

Goal and Objectives

The project aimed to reduce pollution in the lower Minija by installing a demonstrative ecological wastewater treatment plant in the village of Minge that would ensure effective and inexpensive treatment of wastewater and remove barriers to the development of sustainable tourism in Minge.

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions


Wastewater Pipe
Wastewater Pipe

A demonstrative ecological wastewater treatment plant was installed in a small community living in the area sensitive to the water pollution. The constructed wastewater treatment plant functions well already for 4 years and the level of wastewater treatment is sufficient and meets all the hygienic norms. The plant has a capacity of 14.5m3 per day, and was able to serve 60 residents. Thanks to the installed facility local people could shift form the conventional farming to the provision of the environment friendly rural tourism services in the village.

Innovation The innovative aspect of this project was that the sand and reed filter had to be raised above the ground by using a screen made from local clay and polyethylene. Wastewater from the septic tanks was transported to the filter by efficient wastewater pumps (0.6kW capacity). The cost of the equipment and its operation were very low.

The project also removed some legal barriers: there were some significant difficulties when receiving a permission for the operation from the National Center of Hygiene. Issuing of it created a precedent for the use of the similar technology in Lithuania.


The grantee organization fully implemented the project itself, with the support form the local community and partners. The beneficiary of the project are local people. They actively participated in the project on a voluntary basis, assisted in construction works. This allowed to reduce implementation costs significantly.

The other partners of the project were Klaipeda University, and NGOs European Coastal Union (EUCC) Baltic Office, ecological club “Zvejone”, Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB). These partners assisted with the selection and addaptation of the technology to the local conditions, as well as on the information dissemination and educational activities


The village is situated in the area of the Nemunas Delta Regional Park, at the outlet of the Minija River, and in a coastal zone of the Curonian Lagoon, e.i. in the area that is very sensitive to the water pollution. Traditionally local people were involved into conventional farming. Being divided by the Minija river this picturesque place was attractive for the development of the water tourism.


The project implementation started on November 2001, and finished on October 2004. Started with the enthusiasm the project implementation lagged behind the planned schedule due to several reasons. 1) The prices of the construction materials had risen significantly during the project. Therefore the technology of the sand-reed filter had to be revised, and a lot of local materials were used. Moreover, the local community assisted in the construction works on a voluntary basis. 2) After the construction of the wastewater treatment facility the project team did not organized several of the planed information dissemination activities.


Initially a technical documentation for the wastewater treatment plant was prepared and approved. The plant construction included laying of pipelines, installment of wells and septic tanks, building of pumping station and installment of sand and reed filter itself. The filter occupies 8 are plot. The plant, which has a capacity of 14.5m3 per day, is able to serve 60 residents. Aiming to cut construction costs local building materials were used and local people worked voluntary as much as possible.

An information and education programme for the local community was developed and implemented, including discussions and information publications and boards.

The total value of the project was US$ 40,000. GEF SGP provided US$ 20,455 for the implementation of the project (No LIT/01/06). 30% of the project costs were covered thanks to the in-kind contribution of the grantees and their partners.

Results and Impact

Minge village is situated in the unique area of the Nemunas River Delta, where the Minija River falls into Curonian Lagoon, and the level of the ground-water is low, which makes the area very sensitive to any kind of discharges of pollutants. Aiming to reduce the pollution an ecological wastewater treatment plant was installed in the village. The costs of the construction were quite low as the community used local materials. The plant secured effective and cheep treatment of wastewater. Thanks to the project the village (sometimes called "Lithuanian Venice") was able to develop tourism infrastructure, and now is becoming a popular site of the water-tourism and rural tourism. Good experience encouraged the community for other projects and activities as well.

Lessons for Replication

The technology has raised an active interest for the further replication among communities. According to the project leader’s information the project has been replicated in 4 other places of Lithuania.

Main Results

The discharge of wastewater into the Minija catchment in the lower reaches of the river was reduced, five sources of pollution were eliminated and pollution was prevented in a 60ha area. Unfortunately, there was no monitoring of the water quality, which makes an accurate assessment of the reduction in the pollution impossible. The wastewater treatment plant has enabled farmers to develop tourism services. Families get additional income from rural and water tourism. The socio-economic situation in the village is improving.

Outlook (Conclusions and Next Steps)

Thanks to the installed wastewater treatment plant local farmers now provide rural tourism services and reduced farming activities in the area. Moreover, the project created conditions to get an EU Phare 2000 grant for a water tourism development project, used for the construction of a tourist information centre and a pier for yachts and cutters. Incoming ships can discharge their waste into the wastewater plant in the village now.

The plant is maintained by the grantee organization. The local people as well as incoming ships have to pay a fee to cover costs of the plant’s functioning and maintenance. As a price is very low, it does not make a burden.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions


See also

Water Knowledge Fair 2006

External Resources


 Lithuania Minge Village.DOC

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