Every year EU Member states together with European Comission choose the best LIFE projects which have been completed and evaluated in the past year. Among the best projects for 2015 were also three Slovenian projects (last year there were two). The awarding ceremony was held in Brussels as part of Green Week event. The best projects will also be presented in a special publication . Project WETMAN – Conservation and Management of Freshwater Wetlands in Slovenia, was chosen out of 63 projects in Nature and Biodiversity priority area. There were 14 completed projects aimed at reaching environmental objectives through information and communication applications among which 2 out of 5 best projects were from Slovenia: AQUAVIVA – Live Water from Biodiversity to the Tap and REBIRTH – Promotion of the Recycling of Industrial Waste and Building Rubble for the Construction Industry.
It took four years to execute project WETMAN (February 2011 – February 2015). Its total value was 2.15 million EUR, of which 50% was funded from the LIFE + financial mechanism. The project was coordinated by the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation and implemented together with partners: the Slovenian Forest Service, Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia, Fisheries Research Institute of Slovenia, Ruše Municipality, Kranjska Gora Municipality and RTV Slovenia. Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning contributed about a quarter of the funding, 563,000 EUR, and some municipalities from the project’s implementation area also acted as co-financers: Slovenska Bistrica, Zreče, Črnomelj, Slovenj Gradec, Lovrenc na Pohorju, and Maribor. The primary purpose of project WETMAN was to preserve Slovenian wetlands which are one of the most endangered habitats in the world. They chose six wetlands, all of which are also Natura 2000 protected areas: Pohorje bogs, Zelenci, Mura oxbow lakes in Petišovci, three Karst ponds in Vinica, fens in Planik near Mengeš and Vrhe near Slovenj Gradec. These areas represent different types of wetlands, which have not been properly maintained in the past. Project objectives were aimed at improving or establishing a favourable conservation state of eight European endangered plant and animal species and seven habitat types. The project was divided into the following sets of actions: revitalization (original establishment) of hydrological conditions in the pilot areas, removal of overgrown vegetation and invasive species, preventing further destruction of these areas and their sustainable management. In the framework of the project management plans for these areas were prepared and are also presenting a classroom in nature – a number of presentations, meetings, nature science days and voluntary nature conservation action days to bring wetlands closer to the general public were prepared. In this regard a thirty minute documentary film and three short video clips were produced in cooperation with RTV SLO.
Project AQUAVIVA has set ambitious goals to be reached within three years (September 2011 – September 2014): to increase for at least 10 % the awareness of Slovenian public about the importance of biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems for life on the planet. Lutra, Institute for Conservation of Natural Heritage, was the founding leader and the project applicant. For the implementation they partnered with Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia and HOPA advertising studio. The total value of the project was approximately € 550,000, Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning has contributed almost € 110,000. In order to reach all target groups of the general public, they tackled the theme in different ways: they prepared nature education days and workshops for the youth, interactive demonstrative models, numerous exhibitions at shopping malls, fairgrounds and other venues. The exhibition in Krakovski nasip (and the accompanying catalogue) revealed diatoms, “The Wonders of Ljubljanica River”. Whereas our freshwater biodiversity, from algae to otter, was shown on an exhibition called » Live treasures of our waters « in the Jakopič Promenade in Tivoli. The biodiversity theme was visually promoted on the exterior of public transport and on LCD screens inside. The importance of aquatic organisms was discussed in lectures, on websites and social networks; comics, colouring book and other publications were prepared as well. Furthermore promotional bottles AQUAVIVA made from borosilicate glass remind us of unsustainability of bottled water. Instead we should pour ourselves clean water from the tap. The people share the right to water with other living species, especially with those to which water represent also their natural habitat. Only healthy natural aquatic ecosystems can provide ecosystem services that enable and enrich our lives. With the opinion survey at the beginning and the end of the project, the increase of the public awareness about the importance of aquatic biodiversity due to project’s merit was measured. Surprisingly results show an increase by 31%, far exceeding the original plan. This probably contributed to the selection of the project AQUAVIVA among the five best information projects in 2015.
The main topic of the project REBIRTH was the promotion, information and awareness raising on the beneficial use of industrial and construction waste as sources of raw materials in the construction sector. The total budget of the project was over 845,000 EUR, of which Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning contributed more than 165,000 EUR. The project was coordinated by Slovenian National Building and Civil Engineering Institute and implemented together with partners Chamber of Commerce of Slovenia, PKG Mirko Šprinzer, Klaro web agency, Mayer McCann, and Structum between October 2011 and December 2014. For professional public and local communities they have prepared four practical presentations, two conferences, eight workshops, five technical manuals and four video presentations on the use of waste. With a mobile exhibition that toured the Slovenian municipalities and schools the general public and municipalities were encouraged to proper construction waste management aimed at thereby reducing the number of illegal dumps. Thematic prize contests were also organized for general public. All project activities were accompanied by professional and general articles; however all the information and communication of the project was gathered on the website. The project has involved almost 1,300 representatives of industry, building contractors, collectors and waste processors, designers, supervisors, local waste management providers, inspection services, government institutions, agencies, municipalities, NGOs, schools, students and others. The project has contributed to a deeper insight into the legislation on waste, chemicals, and other aspects of the environment and building laws, thereby allowing better understanding of waste as a source of raw materials. This is certainly one of the reasons why the amount of waste from certain industrial waste categories decreased in recent years, example of which is waste from thermal processes which decreased from almost 1.6 million tonnes in 2011 to one million tonnes in 2013. The project has helped to improve knowledge on the proper handling of construction waste, the quality of the recycled aggregates and possibilities of their use instead of natural resources. It encouraged the municipalities, their local service providers and other institutions to disseminate this behaviour in their environments. Changes in this area are also indicated by the data on the quantity of dumped construction waste, which has decreased from 99,567 tonnes in 2011 to 21,075 tonnes in 2013.
Obtaining funds from the LIFE programme for the implementation of the project Capacity Building Slovenia
Slovenian projects ranked again among the best which represents an encouragement for future projects. Since LIFE programme presents an increasingly important source of funds for financing environmental and climate projects, the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning has obtained funding from the LIFE programme for the implementation of the so-called capacity building project, which will further support the preparation and submission of the LIFE projects in the coming years. The project will carry out a number of training courses and workshops along with a tour of best practices across Slovenia. Trainings and workshops will be aimed at different target audiences, where they will be able to obtain everything from basic information about the LIFE programme to the expert knowledge of project proposal writing. We will organize two conferences aimed at encouraging networking among project partners and those who are yet planning to submit a proposal. An e-platform to search for project partnerships will be established, while the project website with all the information about the activities undertaken within the project and on LIFE programme is already available.
Since the beginning of the project we already performed two information days (April 2016) and two detailed workshops (June 2016). On the latter six new members of LIFE CB SI team were present, will be responsible for the further implementation of project activities.