Croatia’s parks and protected areas that cover 12% of the nation’s inland territory and 2% of its seacoast are facing the need for one integrated management system. For one of the most biologically diverse territories in Europe, the problem stemmed from the way these parks were disconnected from each other, with huge disparities in revenues and access to funding, multiple duplicated tasks and no savings from economies of scale. Resolving such current disparities in funding and staffing is one of the key goals of PARCS, a major new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project launched in Zagreb on June 4, 2014.
Tajana Ban Ćurić, a 37-year-old technical officer at the Medvednica Nature Park, spent 10 years working at one of some 420 protected areas in Croatia.
“The future for Croatia’s beautiful nature parks is looking a lot brighter with this new project,” Tajana says. “These big differences in income don’t leave the majority of parks with many opportunities for development and investment. We’re all hopeful it’s going to transform the way our country manages these precious protected areas.”
The project is designed to help introduce self-financing mechanisms to the entire park system, including redistribution to channel funds from richer to poorer parks. It will also introduce a uniform ticketing system, standardization of functions and a shared service centre. Park staff will receive specialized financial training.
“To preserve our most valuable resources and biodiversity for future generations, it is essential to invest in the development of protected areas,” says Valentina Futac, UNDP Project Manager. “Thanks to the PARCS project, we can improve parks infrastructure and make the whole system financially self-sufficient and sustainable, solving problems such as overstaffing.”
The PARCS project will further cut parks’ spending by piloting energy-efficient technologies, including the introduction of electric boats and the replacement of oil and diesel fuel with energy from renewable sources. It will also make buildings in protected areas more energy efficient, reducing high water and energy costs.
To improve visitors’ experience in peak season, the new ticketing system will shorten long lines and wait time at park entrances. To better the quality and increase the length of time visitors spend in protected areas further, the project will also help interconnect many of the currently isolated attractions and destinations.
Over the next four years, the UNDP will be implementing the PARCS project in partnership with Croatia’s Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection to strengthen the management of the country’s 19 most important parks. To make this project possible, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) contributed USD 4.9 million. The UNDP Croatia provided USD 500,000 in direct funding. The GEF investment has also catalyzed additional USD 18 million in investment from local government sources.
Preserving Croatia’s biodiversity has been a key priority for its government, and a major long-term commitment of UNDP in Croatia. Thus, the PARCS project will build on the experience of two previous GEF-funded UNDP projects in the country:
- Removing Barriers to Energy Efficiency in public-sector buildings, and
- Green Business Support Programme for eco-friendly businesses in Dalmatia.
“We want to enable our 19 national and nature parks to fulfil their development potential,” said Mihael Zmajlovic, the Minister of Environmental and Nature Protection, speaking at a press conference held to mark World Environmental Protection Day. “To accomplish this, it is necessary to improve the model of protected areas management and investment in infrastructure. This is exactly what will be done through the PARCS project.”