EU projects help improve Ukrainian energy and environment standards (with video)

Symbolique 2006With a helping hand from the EU, Ukraine can reduce energy consumption, improve biodiversity and move toward effective waste management. These and other issues were highlighted during a press conference on Dec. 12 held by EU energy and environment projects at the office of the EU Delegation to Ukraine.

“We are working with local communities on a day-to-day basis, helping them to solve issues they are facing,” says Simon Pow, team leader of an EU waste governance project.* With a budget of €5.9 million, the project aims to reduce the environmental and health risks associated with inappropriate waste management in seven former Soviet Union countries, including Ukraine. Ukraine’s Zakarpatska oblast is one of the project’s focus areas. Pow adds that EU experts have developed a 15-year strategy for the oblast’s administration to, “effectively manage their wastes.”

This pilot oblast faces the challenge of cross-border pollution of the Tisza river basin water resources. “Floating waste” is being sent toward EU countries like Hungary and Slovakia. Thanks to the project, the village of Kostylivka has become an outstanding example of appropriate separation and collection of solid waste. Pow tells that the EU project helped create waste disposal sites and install waste sorting containers and held a campaign to raise awareness of waste management among both children and adults.

In addition to waste management, the rehabilitation of degraded lands is a priority for EU assistance in the environment sector. Each year, an additional 100,000 hectares of Ukrainian steppes is damaged, according to Victoria Shevchuk, representative of the EU-funded Steppe Biodiversity project.** Shevchuk suggests that by 2025 the scope of the destruction will equal 10 million hectares: a territory the size of Bulgaria. Illustrating the extent of the problem, farmers in Petrivka village (Odessa region) have often slaughtered cattle because there is no space for grazing.

The Steppe Biodiversity project aims to restore the depleted and abandoned steppe lands by creating seed banks and assisting in the revegetation of non-productive steppe-type pastures. “The restoration of steppes is done in order to bring welfare to rural areas,” Shevchuk explains.

The idea behind many EU projects is to create an ideal model in one place that can be reproduced elsewhere. Andrii Barulin, expert at an EU project aiming to introduce energy-saving technologies in kindergartens of Gola Prystan*** (a town in Khersonska oblast), says that the project succeeded in providing more comfortable conditions for children. Aimed at reducing the administration’s heating expenses, the project winterized windows, roofs and pipes, installed solar panels to heat water in summer and transitioned buildings to the use of water-efficient toilets.

Despite these achievements, large-scale nation-wide initiatives are needed in Ukraine to make pilot experiences transferrable to other regions. A number of NGOs in Ukraine argue that the energy sector still needs considerable changes.

“In our opinion, today’s methods of energy use are harmful to the environment,” says Yuriy Urbanskiy, executive director of the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine. He adds that it is possible for renewable energies to make up one-third of the total mix of Ukraine’s energy production by 2030 and that the use of heat energy can be decreased.

By making these positive changes, Ukraine greens it economy and gets closer to EU standards.

Background

*“Waste Governance – ENPI East” – This project aims to reduce the risks associated with inappropriate waste management in the ENPI East region (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine) that create pollution and present environmental hazards to communities and natural resources. Project value: €5.9 million. More information: http://www.wastegovernance.org/index_eng.html

**“Enhanced Economic & Legal Tools for Steppe Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation’’ – This EU project aims to overcome threats to steppe biodiversity. EU contribution to the project exceeds €1,4 million (73 per cent of the project’s total budget). The project is implemented by the Ukrainian Society For The Protection Of Birds. More information: http://birdlife.org.ua/Stepove-bioriznomanittya

***“Introduction of energy-saving technologies in kindergartens of Gola Prystan” – This project aims to implement modern energy-saving technologies in order to reduce energy expenditures, save funds and fuel, and enhance the quality of heat supply by installing energy efficient equipment and training personnel on energy-saving techniques. The EU’s contribution to the project stands at €176,000 (79 per cent of the project’s total budget). More information:

http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/ukraine/projects/list_of_projects/281292_en.htm