Ukraine hosts three LEAP workshops in Cherkasy, Poltava, and Ivano-Frankivsk
By Anna Ruban
During the week of May 18-22, 2015, the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC) hosted three workshops in each of the REC's Ukrainian partner municipalities (Cherkasy, Poltava, and Ivano-Frankivsk). The workshops were organised within the framework of "Local Environmental and Energy Action Plans (LEAPs) for Sustainable Development, Energy Diversification and Civic Engagement in Communities in Ukraine", a project funded by the U.S. Department of State. Attending the workshops were representatives of local governments, civil society organisations, communal services, businesses, academia and the educational sphere.
LEAPs training involves both a theoretical aspect and a practical aspect. At the beginning of a workshop, REC facilitators introduce basic information, project goals and targets, LEAP methodology, steps to be taken, and possible beneficial outcomes for the local community. Participants are divided afterwards into several mixed-stakeholder groups to carry out four separate practical exercises. These activities comprise the preliminary stages required for the creation of a LEAP document.
The first exercise at the Ukraine workshops was to articulate a vision of one's community as it will appear in 10-20 years' time. The interesting result of this exercise was that community visions of different groups were almost the same for each municipality, which would seem to indicate that citizens share similar future visions for their cities. For the second exercise, participants were asked to list as many environmental and energy-related problems in their municipalities as possible. Each group then shared their results with all the other participants. Based on these outcomes, the LEAPs project team consolidated prioritised issues into a single list. Each participant then allocated four votes to identify, according to personal opinion, the most important environmental and energy-related issues in his or her municipality. At the end of this activity, four priority issues were identified according to the workshop participants.
However, the LEAP methodology includes two different ways to validate information and data. A public opinion survey was conducted in three municipalities two months before the workshops took place. Citizens were asked to identify what they felt were the most important environmental and energy-related problems to solve, and this cross-data validation approach helped to identify four main issues for Cherkasy, Poltava, and Ivano-Frankivsk.
The last workshop exercise focused on developing preliminary environmental action plans to solve identified problems, and this activity allowed participants to obtain knowledge of possible strategies for doing so.
The workshop structure was the same for each municipality, but different environmental problems in each municipality led to varied results. These differences are presented in what follows.
The first workshop was held on the May 18 in Cherkasy, a middle-sized municipality (pop. 284,789) in Central Ukraine. There were 41 participants, with equal representation from different stakeholder groups. The top municipal environmental problems, as identified by the workshop participants were: solid waste, which has been accumulating in landfills; excessive energy consumption; low energy efficiency; polluted rivers; poor-quality drinking water; poor air quality; outdated urban planning schemes; the presence of hazardous waste and its insufficient treatment; pollution from heavy industry; harmful allergenic plants; low public environmental awareness (environmental consciousness); inadequate wastewater treatment; and adverse impacts of conventional agriculture on the environment.
Meanwhile, in the poll results, citizens indicated the following top concerns as: bad quality of roads, pedestrian streets and the lack of parking space (38.9 percent); poor-quality drinking water (15.7 percent); poor air quality (12.5 percent); and current methods of waste collection and disposal (11 percent). The results are based on the opinions of 1,874 citizens of Cherkasy and 212 citizens from surrounding villages (Chervona Sloboda, Geronymivka, Svydivok, Verguny, and Hutory).
The prioritising exercise and comparison with expert opinions and survey results helped to merge some issues, and also identified four broader environmental and energy-related problems as priorities in Cherkasy, namely: solid waste accumulation in landfills; low energy efficiency; poor air quality; and inadequate wastewater treatment.
The second workshop was held on May 20 in Poltava (pop. 295,950), a municipality in Eastern Ukraine. The 30 participants, including representatives from local governments, NGOs, communal services, academia and business, identified the following environmental and energy-related problems: low environmental consciousness of the population; overloaded landfills; lack of a municipal programme for sorting and recycling solid waste; air and water pollution; the need to preserve green areas and parks; corruption related to illegal construction in green areas; extensive mining for minerals; a lack of budget funds for environmental protection; low energy inefficiency; high energy dependence; an absence of alternative energy projects; and transport problems (emissions, bad quality of roads).
The poll results were slightly different. According to public opinion, bad roads (18.1 percent); waste collection and recycling (16.2 percent); water quality of rivers (10.7%); and public-utility company services (7.6 percent) are the primary concerns. These conclusions were made based on the answers of 2,400 respondents from Poltava Municipality and surrounding villages (Makuhivtsi, Rozsoshentsi, Yakivtsi, Suprunivky, and Vakulentsi).
After the consolidation of identified environmental and energy-related problems, followed by a on survey outcomes, participants shortlisted the following four problems: a low environmental consciousness of the population; overloaded landfills and lack of a programme for sorting and recycling solid waste; high energy dependence and low energy efficiency; and inadequate water quality.
The last training took place on May 22 in Ivano-Frankivsk (pop. 223,165), which is in Western Ukraine and near the Carpathian Mountains. Twenty-eight representatives of local stakeholders participated in the workshop. The experts identified the following problems: inadequate quality of drinking water; noise pollution; improper waste management; outdated urban planning; low levels of environmental education; insufficient treatment of wastewater; low energy efficiency; poor air quality; and lack of transport planning.
The public opinion survey produced slightly different results. The adult population of the city of Ivano-Frankivsk and surrounding villages (Krykhivtsi, Vovchynets, Khryplyn, Ugornyky, and Mykytyntsi) identified the following problems: poor state of roads, pavements and a lack of parking space (68.6 percent); omnipresent dumping of municipal waste (garbage in the streets) (38.3 percent); a poor performance of utility services (29.7 percent); and poor quality of drinking water (23.6%).
The follow-up comparison discussion on experts' and citizens' opinions resulted in a list of four priority environmental and energy-related problems, namely: improper waste management (collecting, sorting, processing, recycling etc.); poor air quality; outdated urban planning; and low energy efficiency and high energy dependency.
In a nutshell, participants from Cherkasy, Poltava and Ivano-Frankivsk municipalities stressed the importance of environmental education and development of environmental consciousness among citizens, the general lack and underdevelopment of which are perceived as blocking the way to more sustainable lifestyles. Different activities for increasing environmental awareness of local inhabitants are thus included in each proposed solution to identified problems.
It should also be noted that waste management and energy efficiency are two problems that were identified as priorities in each of the three municipalities. The public opinion surveys also revealed an interesting fact: bad roads and infrastructure is considered to be one of the most urgent and disturbing "environmental" problems in all three municipalities.
Representatives from all stakeholder groups demonstrated interest and a willingness to contribute, as they see the LEAPs project as offering a possibility for finding solutions to environmental and energy-related problems. Accordingly, working groups have been formed in each municipality; they have already started developing their LEAP documents, which will be finalised by the middle of October 2015. On October 19-20 in Kyiv, the mayors of Cherkasy, Poltava, and Ivano-Frankivsk will present the results of their LEAPs projects in front of donors, the funding organisation, representatives from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, mayors of other cities, experts, and other project participants.