Irreversible Damage

If what Ohrid SOS says about the importance of Studenchishte Marsh and the need for its protection is correct, there should be high-level expert reports and testimony saying the same thing, right?

Right. And it goes back 100 years.

Renowned geographer Jovan Cvijić kicked it off. In 1911, he studied the relationship between the water levels of Studenchishte Marsh and Lake Ohrid, leading him to conclude that the wetland was an integral part of the lake with special significance for carp and nesting birds.

Another Studenchishte milestone came in 1960 with the publication of Sinisa Stankovic’s  Lake Ohrid and its Living World, which again emphasized the importance of the region’s wetlands in a work whose relevance persists 57 years later. 

Reaching through to the present day and expert realization of Studenchishte’s essentialness appears in magazine articles, journal papers, YouTube videos from respected international scientists, and environmental assessments. Even the IUCN has identified wetland rehabilitation as a top priority for Ohrid region World Heritage.

One of the most influential of these reports in recent times is State of the Remains of Studenchishte Marsh and Measures for its Revitalization, completed in 2012 by an expert team that was led by Dr. Menka Spirovska.

The team concluded that a 63.97-hectare Studenchishte area should be designated as a Monument of Nature due to its specific evolution pathways; significant aspects in the development of nature; presence of unique or endangered species; research significance; rarity; cultural and recreational values; and the fact that it is a high quality remnant of an old marsh system that is close to extinction in Macedonia.

Studenchishte Marsh Plans

Ohrid Municipality initially chose to ignore these recommendations instead preferring to replace Studenchishte Marsh with luxury accommodation, hotels, restaurants and a water-sports center. To do this, however, it required an environmental assessment, which was conducted by Civil Engineering Institute “Macedonia” and headed by Dr. Borka Kovachevic.

Kovachevic found that urbanization of the wetland would result in significant negative effects: incompatibility with World Heritage designation; degradation in the quality and quantity of groundwaters; disruption to Studenchishte Marsh’s main function as a filter for Lake Ohrid; and serious threats both to wetland and in-lake biodiversity.

No measure could resolve the impact except non-implementation.

Cover Pic: Kliment A.

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