Protected Areas: Making nature closer to people

How best can Ukraine promote protected areas? Where do Ukrainian and European practices overlap and where do they diverge? How does a piece of land become a protected area?

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These and other questions were raised during a June 10 press tour organised by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources within the framework of the EU-funded project* designed to help Ukraine to improve its environmental policies. The event helped to highlight the following issues: tourism in protected areas, nature conservation, and co-operation between Ukraine and the European Union in the field of ecology.

On protected areas in Ukraine. There are currently thousands protected areas in Ukraine: 8101 in total, including one marine reserve and 48 national parks. The country hopes to create 10 new national parks in the near future.

Governments around the world take on the responsibility of funding national parks and Ukraine is no exception. The problem is, however, that national parks in Ukraine, like schools or hospitals, are financed from the state budget, and the allocated funds are only enough to cover basic expenses. More and more often, grants and international initiatives are filling this gap.

Yuri Karpenko, Head of science, education and recreation for the Mezyn National Nature Park says that the park has “enough government money to pay for salaries and utilities, but not enough to take on the informational component: handouts, brochures, and other products to promote national parks as places for citizens’ recreation.” According to Anastasia Drapalyuk, an official of the Department of Protected Areas and National Parks of Ukraine’s Environment Ministry,  international organisations and the EU help to develop protected areas, and have contributed by creating eco-trails and equipping visitor centres.

On quantity and quality of protected areas. About 21% of the territories of European countries have protected status. Some European countries, such as France and Germany, have fewer national parks than Ukraine, but the parks in those countries may be of a higher quality.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which Kyiv has also signed, Ukraine is committed to designate 17% of land and 10% of marine areas as protected by 2020. Today this percentage is much lower, however.

On conditions of developing protected areas in Ukraine. According to international standards as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 75% of a country’s inviolable territory must be in national parks. This means that the area can be visited, but people cannot reside there or benefit from the land’s resources.

Ukraine cannot accomplish this all at once because of population density, but it will gradually implement this strategy by creating protected areas and changing the terms and conditions of land usage year over year. For example, Germany creates protected areas by following this model and has also created a development plan for these areas for the next decades.

On EU-Ukraine environmental co-operation. In 2010, Ukraine adopted the law, “On Basic Principles (strategy) of the State Environmental Policy of Ukraine till 2020,” which was the basis for EU’s sectoral budget support in the field of environment. The main purpose of the support is to help the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources and non-governmental environmental organisations develop a national environmental strategy in accordance with the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and other international agreements in the field of environmental protection. Additionally, Ukraine’s economic strategy specifies that the country should increase the number of areas of nature reserve fund to 15%. By 2013, this percentage should have reached 6.9%, but at the moment it equals only to 6.08%.

Anna Golubovska-Onisimova, expert of EU project supporting the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, says the initiative has focused on different areas of environmental management, from improving environmental policy to information campaigns. Indicators of success were evaluated in each area and this data is used to inform decisions on further allocation of funds within the project.

*Background. The EU-funded project, “Complementary support to the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine for the sector budget support implementation,” is being implemented between 2011 and 2014. The project has a total budget of more than 3 million. Over the lifetime of the project, the Ministry of Ecology has conducted more than 50 seminars and conferences to improve environmental policy development. The project also provides support in the preparation of reports and information campaigns to promote protected areas and to draw public attention to the need for nature conservation. The project intends to promote compliance with environmental legislation and bring Ukrainian practices closer to European laws on the environment and protected areas.

More information: http://www.sbs-envir.org

Olga Gurtovenko, for “EU-Ukraine Cooperation News”