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Implementation Completion Report (ICR) Review - Biodiversity Protection Project

1. Project Data:   
Project ID:
Project Name:
Biodiversity Protection Project
Slovak Republic
Forestry, Agriculture
L/C Number:
Partners Involved:
McArthur Foundation
Prepared By:
Andres Liebenthal, OEDST
Reviewed By:
Hernan Levy
Group Manager:
Gregory Ingram
Date Posted:

2. Project Objectives, Financing, Costs, and Components:

The objective of this project was to protect and strengthen forest and related ecosystem biodiversity in the Slovak Republic. Specific objectives were to:

(i) foster systems of financially sustainable biodiversity protection through the introduction of user fees and related charges for visitors and concessions;
(ii) establish a Foundation for Eastern Carpathian Biodiversity Conservation (FECBC) as a three-country mechanism to protect biodiversity in the transboundary area;
(iii) protect three representative ecosystem zones in the Tatras, Morava Floodplain, and Eastern Carpathians;
(iv) support the activities of transnational biodiversity protection networks associated with each of the three areas; and
(v) develop a conservation program to address priority issues such as restitution/privatization of forest lands.
Project components included a wide range of activities of develop management techniques for a variety of representative ecosystems, environmental management and community support for protected areas, improvement of infrastructure and operations in protected areas, and administration of a small grants program for biodiversity NGOs.
Total project costs of $2.87 million (vs. $2.76 estimated at appraisal) were financed by a GET grant of $2.45 million, a McArthur Foundation grant of $0.45 million, and Austrian Ecofund grant of $0.03 million, and counterpart funds of $0.06 million.

3. Achievement of Relevant Objectives:

The project achieved mixed results. Overall, it:
(i) made little progress in fostering user fees and related charges for visitors and concessions;
(ii) established the FECBC as a three country mechanism with a modest endowment of $0.6 million;
(iii) strengthened biodiversity protection in two areas (Morava Floodplains and Eastern Carpathians), with only limited results in the Tatras;
(iv) strengthened transnational cooperation for each of the areas; and
(v) achieved only limited results in addressing priority issues associated with restitution/privatization of forest lands.

4. Significant Outcomes/Impacts:

The project led to the establishment of the Poloniny National Park (in the Eastern Carpathians), partial restoration of side-arms of the Morava River, the establishment of the tri-national FECBC, active partnerships between national conservation authorities and local communities, strengthened international cooperation and coordination for transboundary conservation, the introduction of economic criteria into conservation planning, and substantial strengthening of institutional capacity for biodiversity conservation.

5. Significant Shortcomings (include non-compliance with safeguard features):

The project made little progress towards the piloting of revenue generating mechanisms, the assessment of carrying capacity, the planning for sustainable development, and the creation of incentives for nature conservation in restituted/privatized forest lands. This raises a question about the long term sustainability of the activities initiated by the project.
From the ICR, it appears that strengthening of the biodiversity conservation program in the Tatras National Park, one of the three focus areas for the project was far below expectations.

6. Ratings:ICROED ReviewReason for Disagreement/Comments
SatisfactoryMarginally Satisfactory
    Out of five objectives, the project made little progress in two of its five objectives, and only partial success in another two.
Institutional Dev.:
    The financial sustainability of project initiated activities is uncertain, since little progress was made in fostering revenue generation mechanisms and creating permanent incentives for biodiversity protection, and the funding for FECBC is very modest
Bank Performance:
Borrower Perf.:
Quality of ICR:

7. Lessons of Broad Applicablity:

The establishment of the FECBC as an international conservation trust fund has provided some valuable lessons. Start-up and recurrent costs have been higher than expected, due to high establishment and banking fees, and the administrative burden of convening a 14-person committee. The initial endowment of $0.6 million yields only a modest $30,000 per year. At the outset, further donations were expected, but donors awaited a conservation needs analysis and strategy, which took some time, and a cohesive approach by the three beneficiary governments, which is yet to happen. The lesson is that, if results are expected at the end of the project, these matters need to be prepared and agreed at the beginning, rather than left to be sorted out during implementation.
The introduction of revenue generating mechanisms and permanent incentives for biodiversity conservation in forest lands was prevented by the lack of understanding of local/national budget laws and historic expectations of free access to a public resource. In retrospect, proportionally more attention should have been given, at every stage of the project, to identifying and analyzing these barriers and communicating with relevant stakeholders. It might also have been helpful to underpin the promotion of this objective with a comprehensive assessment of this issue, combined by stakeholder consultations and the development of carefully researched, widely supported proposals.

8. Audit Recommended?  Yes

          Why?  To verify the sustainability of the activities initiated by the project, including the cross-border networks established for the three areas.

9. Comments on Quality of ICR:

The ICR provides an interesting and well-written overview of the implementation experience of the project. The balance of the ICR could have been improved by devoting more attention to objectives such as the introduction of user fees and other approaches to financially sustainable biodiversity protection, and the development of incentives for biodiversity conservation in restituted and privatized forest lands, rather than structuring analysis around the programmatic areas. Also, having recognized the importance of indicators for measuring progress, and in the absence of any provisions for them in the project, it would have been important for the ICR to have identified performance monitoring indicators for the future (operational) phase of the project and laid the groundwork for monitoring and evaluation of the project's future operation by the Recipient.

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