Romania - Sustainable Management of the “Tur River” Natural Reserve


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From chemicals to compost

Environmental projects often involve costs today - in terms of resources and effort invested - in exchange for a cleaner environment tomorrow. But a project in the Tur River Nature Reserve in Romania has broken this mould by delivering tangible benefits to poor farmers now.

Before the project started, local villagers had often dumped agricultural waste near the Tur River in the northwest part of the country, causing significant damage to plant and wildlife in an area that boasts some of Romania's richest biodiversity.

To deal with the problem, the project created sites to collect the waste and turn it into compost, an environmentally friendly material that impoverished farmers are using to fertilize their crops now.

The project is funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) through the Small Grants Programme and implemented by a local non-governmental organization, Societatea Carpatina Ardeleana (SCA), as well as eight townships and other organizations in the area. Koczan Levente, Mayor of Turulung, a village taking part in the project, said that everyone - including himself - has learned new waste management methods.

"In the beginning I was afraid that the local people were not going to cooperate, but during the project implementation I saw that people were really interested in the new methods", he said.

According to Roxana Suciu, Head of the Energy and Environment Section at UNDP Romania, the project emphasized local participation, and since people were offered the compost and they were taught how to use it, they felt motivated to take part in the project.

The project provided the funds necessary to build the composting stations as well as training for the local personnel to operate the sites. It started in August 2005 and concluded a year later.

More than 29,000 people live in the region around the Natural Reserve, with 51 per cent of the population engaging in agricultural activities. According to SCA, more than 10 tons of biodegradable waste are produced daily in the area.

The biodegradable material created through the project eliminates the need to employ chemical fertilizers, which threaten the diversity of the aquatic ecosystems and wetlands.

A study performed in 2001 on the microflora, nitrogen and phosphorus content in the Tur River revealed significant pollution, which the project has already succeeded in reducing.


Sustainable Management of the “Tur River” Natural Reserve

In the following an NGO initiative is presented. In 2005, the Societatea Carpatina Ardeleana - Satu Mare Branch was awarded a grant from Global Environment Facility's Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) in Romania. The project title is "Sustainable Management of the “Tur River” Natural Reserve". One of the project's objectives addresses the pollution caused by the improper management of domestic and agricultural waste generated in the neighbouring communities of Tur River.

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

N-W Romania. 3 villages in the Tur River Natural Reserve, Satu Mare County.


UNDP Romania implements the GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) in the country since 2004. From its inception, the GEF SGP Romania awarded 29 grants addressing the following GEF focal areas: biodiversity conservation, protection of international waters, climate change reduction and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The projects are implemented by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and/ or Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), in partnership with local communities, local public authorities, local businesses, schools, research institutes, etc.

Societatea Carpatina Ardeleana - Satu Mare Branch is a Romanian NGO active in biodiversity conservation in the N-W part of Romania. The NGO is the custodian of the Tur River Natural Reserve, situated at the country's border with Hungary and Ukraine.


Roxana Suciu, Head of Energy & Environment Section, Environmental Focal Point (EFP) , UNDP Romania

Mihaela Dupleac, National Coordinator for GEF Small Grants Programme in Romania


Background and Significance

One of the problems addressed by the present project is the pollution caused by the improper management of domestic and agricultural waste in the neighbouring communities of Tur River. The area is evaluated by the NGO grantee as being of community importance and will be proposed to be included on the list of Natura 2000 sites. At present the status is of Natural Reserve and Societatea Carpatina Ardeleana - Satu Mare Branch has the custody of the reserve.

From the administrative point of view, the Tur River Natural Reserve is under the administration of 9 communes with a total of 16 localities that impact the waters and wetlands of Tur River's waters. In the 16 localities live more than 29 000 inhabitants developing agricultural activities (51% of the population - according to the survey done in 2002).

The 16 localities either have a 'designated' place for domestic waste disposal (landfill) or transport the domestic waste to the landfill of neighbouring localities. In 14 localities there is a company for waste services charging a certain amount of money for the waste services performed. Out of these 14 localities, in 3 localities waste disposal to the company is not compulsory.

38 places where the waste is deposited were identified on the territory of the 16 localities. The project team verified these locations and found 14 of them on the Natural Reserve territory. Out of the 14, 9 are located on the flooded plain of Tur River with a significant negativ impact on its waters and life. During the rainy season, the waste is transported across the border with Hungaria and Ukraine. 5 deposits are on the dead branches of the river on wetlands.

The verification done in the field revealed that deposits are located mostly on the roads that serve the agricultural plots.

In terms of composition, 60-75 % is waste resulted from agricultural activities, 20 -25 % plastic- mostly PET and 5-20% other types (glass, textiles).

Because of a recycling system for metals in place, this type of waste was not found. The same applies to paper and cardboards wastes, as these are burned in rural areas.

The existing documents and strategies refering to the waste management were consulted by the NGO who found that no plan for the management of biodegradable waste was available. The NGO estimated that more than 10 tones of biodegradable waste are produced daily on the inferior flow of River Tur.

The use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture is one of the most threatening factors for the biological diversity of aquatic ecosystems and wetlands. A study performed in 2001 on the microflora and nitrogen and phosphorus content in the dead branches of Tur River revealed a permanent pollution with chemical fertilizers, however not a high one. It is ascertained that this pollution issues from the use of chemical fertilizers on the agricultural plots and grazing areas.

The project aims to reduce the impact of the chemical fertilizers and improper landfills in the Tur River Natural Reserve, by composting the biodegradable waste and using the compost to fertilize the arable plots and grazing lands.

Goal and Objectives

One of the project objectives is to reduce the impact of organic substances and nutrients in waters and wetlands through improvement of an biodegradable waste management system, by the project team with the participation of the local communities, local public authorities and NGOs.

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions


The project was implemented in a rural environment with rather poor communities living in a natural/ semi-natural landscape.

A participative approach was chosen to set up a waste management system supported by the local communities and local authorities.Thus, local communities bring their agricultural wastes to the composting stations and by doing this they will stop depositing their wastes by the river, in the wetlands and natural reserve.

The NGO intended to change the mentality of local communities regarding agricultural wastes management and to increase their responsibility for the local natural values.

To achieve the proposed objective, the followings steps were undertaken: identification of the locations for the public pilot composting stations in Gherta Mica, Turulung and Livada communes, procure the necessary equipment and materials necessary for the composting stations, install the fence and provide a water source for the composting stations, capacity building training for the personnel that will be involved in the operation of the composting stations, inform the local communities about the project in general and the importance of composting in particular.

The intervention was special because the local people who contributed at the development of the waste management system get in turn compost - a very good natural fertilizer - resulted from the composting stations. This approach has double benefits: for the environment and for the well-being of the local communities. Thus, people feel motivated and take part to the initiative.


The implementation is done by Societatea Carpatina Ardeleana - Satu Mare Branch, the NGO that it was awarded the grant, in partnership with: The City Hall of Calinesti Oas commune, The City Hall of Gheta Mica commune, The City Hall of Turulung commune, The City Hall of Halmeu commune, The City Hall of Agris commune, The City Hall of Porumbesti commune, The City Hall of Lazuri commune, The City Hall of Lazuri commune, The City Hall of Micula commune, Schools of Turulung, Porumbesti and Micula, Association "Zestrea" Micula, Association "Ciconia" Lazuri, Youth Association from Turulung. The stakeholders are respresented by the applicant NGO, the local authorities and the inhabitants of the sixteenth localities neighbouring Tur River Nature Reserve. The ones that benefit directly from project implementation are the local communities.


The project implementation area is the Nature Reservation Tur River that is positioned along the Tur River between the Reservoir Lake of Calinesti Oas and the border of Romania with Hungaria and Ukraine (N-W Romania). The surface of the protected area is 6212 hectars. The geographic coordinates are: East longitude: 23 grades 04’ 52”, North latitude: 47 grades, 55'39". The location is countryside, wetland, protected area. This is a multiethnic area, with Romanian, Hungarian, German, Ukrainean and Roma population live. The active groups are farmers.


The project implementation started at 1st of August 2005. The final report due by the end of August 2006 is expected to provide the details related to the project implementation' success, apropriateness and impact.



The steps taken (in reverse order) were:

  • Opening the two composting stations
  • Invitation of the press, partner organisation, local people, local authorities, environmental authorities, educational institutions
  • Equipping the composting stations with specific equipment
  • Preparation of the places for the composting stations
  • Information of local land owners and schools about the advantages of composting – through trainings and presentations.
  • Preparation of informative materials (training materials, leaflets and posters) about the composting and distribution of these materials to the members of the local communities
  • Discussions with the Local Public Authorities, including the selection of the locations for the composting stations
  • Selection of the villages for the composting stations
  • Assessment of situation of agricultural wastes in the 10 localities in the neighborhood of the Tur River Natural Reserve.

This initiative was part of a larger project financed by GEF SGP with US$ 25,859, out of which aprox. 25% were alocated for the compost initiative. The other donors were the local authorities, local private businesses, Environmental Partnership and local community associations.

The NGO reported a very good partnership with the local communities and authorities during the project implementation. The NGO is a member of the Eco NaTur Association - an NGO reuniting local public authorities, NGOs and other stakeholders in the region. In the same time, the NGO is the custodian of the Tur River Natural Reserve. The local Environmental Protection Agency of Satu Mare County supported the NGO initiative.

Results and Impact

Lessons for Replication

The NGO's projects run in the past and the already existing and well developed partnerships contributed to a great extent to the implementation of the project.

The initiative introduced in the region a not widely used method of agricultural waste management, with benefits for the environment - including international waters quality - and local communities.

The project is replicable in other rural areas and can be extended in time and space.

The NGOs recommends to other NGOs and/ or organizations interested in establishing and managing compostiong stations to prior achieve an impact assessment on the targeted area and to measure the needs of the local communities. The involvement of local communities in the whole process is very important for the success and sustainability of such an initiative.

Main Results

The project implementation started at 1st of August 2005. The final report is expected by 31 August 2006.

The concrete achievements so far consist of 2 composting stations in place, which are already being filled in with agricultural wastes by the local population.

The beneficiaries were offered the means to re-introduce the agricultural wastes back in the agricultural system, via the compost.

The compost stations are managed by the local communities and are accessible to all members of the local communities.

It is a good example of a partnership between a NGO and local public authorities.

The project contributes to environmental protection by: - decreasing the organic pollution of wetlands and aquatic habitats;

- decreasing the use of artificial fertilizers in the agriculture.

Outlook (Conclusions and Next Steps)

The composting stations will function as a department of the Local Public Authorities, with own personnel. The project trained local population in composting methods.

The composting stations will have a local responsible (a stabile person assured by the Local Public Authorities) and three workers who will assure the continue function of these stations.

It is necessary to assure the functionality of the equipment, the continuity of the prime materials and human resources.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

Mr. Koczan Levente, Mayor of Turulung village was asked by the NGO to describe the project and its results, to state which problems have been solved, what remains to be done, if he learned anything of this intervention, and if everything went as he expected.

His answer was: "I am very happy that the Societatea Carpatina Ardeleana Satu Mare implemented this project in our village. I think that this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership. I am sure that the project contributes to the solving of the problem of the agricultural wastes in the natural reserve and brings a benefit for the local community.

The waste deposits problem was solved; the applied solution contributes to the sustainable management of the agricultural wastes.

As the president of the Eco NaTur Microregional Association I think that we must replicate this method in all villages in the natural reserve neighborhood.

Everybody involved in this project learned new waste management methods, including myself.

In the beginning I was afraid that the local people were not going to co-operate, but during the project implementation I saw that people are really interested in this new method."

Timeframe & Status

The project implementation period started at 1st of August 2005. The NGO grantee is expected to submit the final report by 31st of August 2006.

= Interviewees and Key Contacts =


See also

Water Knowledge Fair 2006

External Resources


 Romania Tur River.doc

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