Applying integrated planning in designing waterways is the path to achieving goals in an ecologically and financially sustainable manner.
The development of settlements through history has always been linked to water and tributaries. River transport is, therefore, a natural form of communication, and associated commerce is a precondition for the development of a region. With the aim of further development, various projects on constructing channels are being developed and undertaken. The parameters for a riverine route are determined using postulates of the profession, based on the class and morphology of the specific tributary.
Natural tributaries do not have the morphological properties to meet the set requirements for waterway transport, but specific hydroengineering projects might place the tributary into that specific function. Activities which are regularly undertaken in the project preparation phase are bathymetric and topographic surveyings, measuring water levels and discharge measurements, hydrological analyses, hydromorphological research, hydraulic modelling and the like. Properly prepared input data and correctly set threshold conditions are the fundamental requirements for finding an optimal technical solution, with an optimally defined route, position of the regulation belts, as well as the position, type and elements of the new water facility.
When designing a sustainable project for waterway infrastructure – without causing deterioration to the river system and even exerting a positive impact on the current environmental state – the key is not only a detailed investigation of all technical elements, but also understanding and incorporating a wider range of nature and environmental protection measures, thus completely adhering to legal requirements. Early integration of all stakeholders and goals, as well as a wide-ranging discussion, is key to successfully planning the process in connection with waterways. Though this kind of preparation demands a significantly greater investment in planning, the advantages are manifold and noticeable in the greater likelihood of obtaining all the necessary permits, developing innovative technical solutions, greater financial cost-effectiveness, reduced costs from less damage inflicted on the environment, better use of services in the river ecosystem and an improved image of the project in the public, as well as that of institutions responsible for its planning and implementation.
The fundamental philosophy is to integrate goals for nature and environmental protection in the actual design project and thus prevent legal impediments relating to the environment, significantly reduce the amount of potential compensatory measures and improve ecological conditions for the river. Though the recommended steps may differ from project to project when it comes to planning, essential features of integrated planning are as follows:
- Recognize integrated project goals including the need for nature and environmental protection, as well as the needs and goals of other river users
- Include relevant stakeholders back in the initial phase
- Implement an integrated process of planning which will transform all goals into specific project measures
- Implement comprehensive tracking (monitoring) of conditions in terms of nature and environmental protection prior, during and after project works.
During the 25 years of its existence, the project teams at VPB have devised a detailed series of survey maps, conceptual designs, main and detailed designs using an integrated approach, resulting in a comprehensive solution for developing the channel of waterways with a regional and international character (Sava, Una, Kupa, the multi-purpose Dunav-Sava Channel…).