In mid-March 2016, Nizhyn and Fastiv were selected as new partner municipalities of the LEAPs Ukraine project. REC project team members and representatives from the U.S. Department of State's Regional Environment, Science & Technology, and Health Hub (ESTH) held respective kick-off meetings in these cities on March 14 and March 16. Each of the meetings was broken into the following sections: a presentation of the LEAPs Ukraine project; a presentation of the city and its main environmental problems; and site visits to different land fields, water treatment plants, natural parks, waste collection facilities etc. These meetings brought together representatives from local government, civil society, business, academia and the media.
The first meeting was in Nizhyn, a city located in northern Ukraine's Chernihiv Oblast (province). The city lies along the Oster River 150km northeast of Kyiv. It is an administrative centre (raion), but the city itself is also designated as a district within the oblast. Nizhyn is a very old city and has numerous historical sites. The total population is 72,422 (20 percent of which are students).
During the discussion in Nizhyn, participants mentioned the following environmental concerns: inadequate solid waste management; limited water supply and sanitation; poor sewerage and wastewater treatment; energy inefficiency; surface water pollution; and lack of environmental education. Despite various problems, the city has a very caring leadership, an active community, scientific potential, and a desire to learn and change the situation in the city for the better. Moreover, civil society supports the city's leadership and is ready to play an active role in decision making and in transforming the city. In addition, the city has a transparent electronic reporting system, which allows every citizen to see how the city is spending money, and an electronic petition that citizens can use to draw the attention of municipal government to the most serious concerns.
The second meeting was in Fastiv, a city located in Kyiv Oblast. Administratively, it is incorporated at the oblast level. It also serves as the administrative centre of the Fastiv Raion, which it, however, does not belong to. The total population is 48,237.
In his presentation, Mayor Netyazhuk highlighted several of Fastiv's environmental problems, among which are: an outdated water treatment plant; poor quality of drinking and surface water; slow restoration of the riverbank; outdated waste management; inadequate public education on the importance of waste separation; and energy inefficiency. It was also important to highlight the levels of respect and willingness to cooperate between citizens and the city's leadership. The local government and civil society are jointly implementing many excellent initiatives. The city has many young, energetic people who are highly motivated to make their home an example of a progressive, strong and prosperous city of Ukraine. Moreover, the municipality is ready to learn and work hard towards achieving common goals, and is excited to become a partner municipality of the LEAPs Ukraine project.