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Chair’s history

Scientific supervisor of the FTP “The Volga Revival”, former rector of NNGASU, academician of RAACS Valentin V. Naydenko, the founder of the UNESCO Chair

Former rector of NNGASU, doctor of technical sciences, professor Evgeny V. Koposov

The UNESCO Chair “Ecologically safe development of a large region – the Volga basin” was founded at NNGASU in 1997. In February 1998 it was officially opened by Minister of general and professional education of the Russian Federation V.G. Kinelyov.

The UNESCO Chair founder and its first holder up to October 2005 was rector of NNGASU, honored worker of science and engineering of the Russian Federation, academician of the Russian academy of architecture and construction sciences, professor, doctor of technical sciences Valentin V. Naydenko. From 2006 till 2013 the Chair was headed by doctor of technical sciences, professor Evgeny V. Koposov, the rector of NNGASU. The current Chairholder is rector of NNGASU, candidate of technical sciences, professor Andrey A. Lapshin.

The UNESCO Chair is one of the most important departments of the university performing international cooperation, scientific researches and education activities. The Chair consists of 3 professors, 2 associate professors and 3 technicians. The main areas of the Chair’s activities are:

  • sustainable ecologically safe development of the basins of large rivers;
  • preservation of cultural and spiritual heritage in the Volga basin.

The UNESCO Chair collaborates with many Russian and International organizations: UNESCO Secretariat and Headquarters in Paris, Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO. The Chair’s partners are: United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, Karlsruhe University, Hanover University, Innsbruck University, Munich Technical University, Zurich Technical University, Vienne Technical University, Regional ecological centre for Central and East Europe, International network of water and ecological centres on the Balkans, Moscow State Research Institute of Hydrosphere, Caspian Marine Research Centre, Saratov State Socio-Economic University, the Upper-Volga Regional Department for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, Monitoring and information department of the Nizhny Novgorod region, the Upper Volga Basin Water Department, etc.

The priority direction of the Chair’s activities, as it is evident from its title, is ensuring sustainable and ecologically safe development of the basins of large rivers. In 1990, NNGASU was one of the developers of the Federal target programme “Rehabilitation of the ecological situation on the Volga river and its tributaries, restoration and prevention of degradation of natural complexes of the Volga basin” (“The Volga Revival”). The former rector of NNGASU, the Chair’s founder academician V.V. Naydenko was its supervisor.

“The Volga Revival” programme was the most important federal programme on rehabilitation of the largest European river, being implemented from 1998 till 2004. It was one of the first efforts to use principles of sustainable development in practice. In the course of its implementation much success was achieved in coordination of activities of various organizations and departments allowing to speak of applying an integrated approach to the management of the entire Volga basin. This is a unique example of coordination based on scientific understanding of the processes taking place in the river.
Improvement of water quality was among the main programme’s priorities. Many practical measures described in a book by RAACS academician V.V. Naydenko (2003) were undertook.

Commencing implementation of the FTP «The Volga Revival”, NNGASU established scientific contacts with a number of German universities, which, according to the International Russian-German agreement, in 1996 gave start to the large Russian-German scientific and research programme “Volga-Rhine” .

Four projects were realized within the frameworks of the “Volga-Rhine” programme:

  • Impact of cities on river water pollution.
  • Modeling the cascade of the Volga-Kama reservoirs (in collaboration with the Karlsruhe University).
  • Bottom sediments of rivers and reservoirs (in collaboration with the Heidelberg University).
  • Efficient technology of biological treatment of industrial wastewaters in BIOSORBER installations (in collaboration with the Hanover University).

The project “Impact of cities on river water pollution” (partners: Engler-Bunte Institute of the Karlsruhe University (Germany) and the All-Russia Research Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Melioration named after A.N. Kostyukov, Moscow) included joint researches on tap water quality assessment in Nizhny Novgorod, particularly at the water purification station in the Avtozavodsky district with more than 400 thousand inhabitants. Weekly, water samples were taken in Nizhny Novgorod, Balakhna and Kstovo with the help of stationary and mobile laboratories equipped with German instruments. Chemical and bacteriological data obtained in the laboratories were submitted to the sanitary services of the city.

The project “Modeling the cascade of the Volga-Kama reservoirs” fulfilled in collaboration with the Institute of water management of the Karlsruhe University resulted in the development of a mathematical model for water management of the Volga basin along the Cheboksary-Nizhny Noovgorod-Rybinsk section.

Five joint expeditions with scientists of the Heidelberg University within the frameworks of the project “Bottom sediments of rivers and reservoirs” resulted in plotting a map of bottom sediments pollution with heavy metals along the entire Volga length.

In the course of the project “Treatment of industrial waste water up to the quality of process water by means of anaerobic and membrane equipment” (partner: Institute of sanitary engineering and waste management of the Hanover University, Germany) laboratory researches were conducted at NNGASU and Vermani factory waste water treatment facilities to assess the “Biosorb” apparatus for access sludge dewatering and degree of pollution for developing suggestions on its further use, for example, for land reclamation.

Important Chair’s activity in 2002-2005 was participation in the UNESCO interdisciplinary initiative on sustainable development of the Volga-Caspian basin “Sustainable development of the basins of great rivers: a demonstration project for the basin of the Volga and Caspian sea” (Volga-Caspian Sea).

That was the largest UNESCO project incorporated 5 International programmes and focused on establishing legal, economic and ecological mechanisms to ensure sustainable development of the Volga-Caspian basin. The NNGASU UNESCO Chair was selected one of the leading project executers. The first stage of the project resulted in presentation of the main document, the “Volga Vision”, a science-based forecast of the Volga basin development till 2030 published in English and Russian, at the 6th International scientific-industrial forum “Great Rivers 2005”.

From 2005 to February 2007 the Chair was an active participator of the 2nd phase of the UNESCO initiative that envisaged projects on development of International cooperation in the field of man-induced ecological risk management and improvement of the system of natural resources protection and use. One of such International projects was “CABRI-Volga” – Cooperation along a big river: Institutional coordination among stakeholders for environmental risk management in the Volga basin”, in which apart from the NNGASU UNESCO Chair, there were 17 Russian and European participants.

During the project the Chair conducted scientific researches and prepared two reports on good practice and institutional cooperation in ecological risk management in the Volga basin. In February 2007, at the end of the project, a round table was organized in Moscow for all stakeholders, including deputies of the State Duma and representatives of EU and Russia, where findings of the CABRI-Volga project were presented and general recommendations on the policy, activity and scientific research planning to solve key challenges in the basins of large rivers and their tributaries were given (“Vision of a European river”). The CABRI-Volga project was marked off “as an excellent example of positive results that can be achieved within All-European cooperation” and was featured in a catalogue of FP6 Success Stories.

Based on the Cooperation Agreement signed with the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (Germany), in June 2005, a Cooperation Unit of the UN University was established at the NNGASU UNESCO Chair. A long-term objective of the cooperation was to strengthen capacity of institutions and individuals at national and local levels to reduce social and environmental vulnerability to natural and man-made hazards.

Activities of the Cooperation Unit were focused on assessment of vulnerability of territories in the areas of spring flooding in the Nizhny Novgorod region and Volga Federal district and development of an interactive information system for assessment of ecological risks during emergency situations on the territory of the Nizhny Novgorod region. The system was developed in collaboration with the Upper-Volga Territorial Department for Hydrometeorology and Environment Monitoring, the Centre of Monitoring of Emergencies of the Civil Defence Committee of Nizhny Novgorod region, the Upper-Volga Basin Water Department of the Federal Agency for Water Resources, and the Territorial Fund of Information on Natural Resources and Environment Protection in the Volga Federal District of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia. The system was designed to provide information support for planning measures to ensure security on the territory of the Nizhny Novgorod region. Potential users of the system are administrative and authorized bodies, as well as population of the region.

In 2006-2007 households located in flood-prone areas in the Republic of Mari El and Nizhny Novgorod region were investigated. The results allowed conducting comparison analysis of vulnerability of various areas depending on demographic, social, ethnic and economic factors.

In 2008 geoecological research to assess environmental impact of Cheboksary reservoir water raise up to the level of 68 m BS was conducted under the supervision of doctor of technical sciences, professor E.V. Koposov. Representatives of 18 industrial, specialized, scientific, communal and public organizations and the Government of Nizhny Novgorod region took part in that work.

Another main field of the UNESCO Chair’s activity is preservation of cultural heritage in the Volga basin. The UNESCO Chair supports and promotes tendencies of preservation and restoration of historic and cultural heritage as the most important town-planning factor that has great influence on the development of our city and its appearance. In this direction the Chair works in close collaboration with the Department for State Protection of Cultural Heritage of the Nizhny Novgorod Region, foreign specialists, design and restoration workshops, scientific and research organizations.

As a coordinator and an executer the Chair participates in the Federal project “Ilinskaya sloboda” (“Zapochaine”). This is a project of regeneration and development of a unique historical-cultural and natural-landscape territory of the central part of old Nizhny Novgorod represented by not only individual buildings, but also architectural complexes and entire ensembles. The UNESCO Chair participates in developing a historic-architectural layout, performs archive researches, expert investigations, analysis of technical conditions of constructions, gives scientific consultations, etc. During 2003-2005 several churches of XIII – XVII centuries were restored, an ensemble of a new city square – the Square of National Unity was built including a chapel with an alarm bell and a monument to heroes of Nizhny Novgorod people’s militia Kuzma Minin and prince Dmitry Pozharsky. The project was implemented under the technical supervision of professor E.V. Koposov.

In 2006 a new International project “Analysis and preservation of constructions by engineer Shukhov in Nizhny Novgorod region” was initiated by the NNGASU UNESCO Chair. Structures designed by the great Russian engineer and survived up to nowadays in Nizhny Novgorod region are: a power transmission tower on the Oka river near Dzerzhinsk, roofing of a rolling shop of the metallurgical works and a water tower in Vyksa.

Foreign partners in this project were: Institute of history of architecture, arts and restoration of Technical University of Munich, Germany; Institute of historical monuments protection of Zurich University, Switzerland; Institute of architecture and research of Technical University of Vienna, Austria; Institute of construction engineering of Innsbruck University, Austria. The project aim was restoration of objects representing a world value to be included in the List of UNESCO world heritage.

In 2006 an international group of experts together with NNGASU specialists developed a working plan of tower repair and creation of a recreation tourist area around it. In 2007 the UNESCO Chair identified sources of financing, at the end of the year restoration works started, and, in April 2008, reconstruction of the tower was successfully completed.

Since 1999 the UNESCO Chair has been one of the organizers of the annual International scientific and industrial forum “Great Rivers”. The forum is dedicated to sustainable, ecologically safe economic development of countries and nations living in the basins of great rivers, creation of new forms of International and interregional partnership to solve global challenges in protecting environment. Special attention at the forum is paid to the issues of culture, history, cultural heritage preservation in the basins of large rivers.

Annually, the forum is attended by representatives of about 20 countries, and a number of International organizations, more than 40 subjects of the Russian Federation. The exposition block of the forum is formed by about 300 enterprises and organizations. The scientific congress of the forum is represented by over 3,000 reports and presentations on urgent problems of the sustainable development of river basins. Organizers of the forum are: United Nations, UNESCO, the Ministry of natural resources of RF, the Ministry of education and science of RF, the State Committee of RF for environment protection, the Government of Nizhny Novgorod region, Administration of the Plenipotentiary of the President of RF in the Volga federal district, All-Russian JSC “Nizhegorodskaya yarmarka”, NNGASU.

In 2008 the UNESCO Chair took an active part in the work of the 10th jubilee International scientific and industrial forum “Great Rivers”. Within the frameworks of the forum events were organized dedicated to the celebration the 10th anniversary of the UNESCO Chair establishment at NNGASU, the Day of Volga, the Day of Holland and other events.

The monograph “Ecologically safe, sustainable development of the Volga basin. Aspects of International scientific cooperation” was published in 2008 to mark the 10th anniversary of the UNESCO Chair, in which scientific projects conducted by the UNESCO Chair on rehabilitation of ecological situation in the Volga basin in collaboration with foreign universities and organizations were described.

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