Public demands to solve environmental problems of Dnieper! Print
News Waterfall - News Waterfall #3
Tuesday, 07 August 2012 18:28

The 4th Dnieper Forum of NGOs from three countries of Dnieper river basin took place on 6–7 July 2012 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Dnieper Forum was dedicated to annual Dnieper Day celebrations and the 20th anniversary of UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) adoption. Forum was organized by Ukrainian National Environmental NGO “MAMA-86” in partnership with the UNDP-GEF Dnipro Basin Environment Programme and Dnieper basin Department of Water Resources Management with financial support from the European Economic Commission (UNECE), the Global Water Partnership in Ukraine and UNDP-GEF Dnipro Basin Environment Programme.

Forum was attended by 38 representatives of NGOs, scientific and water sector institutions from 19 cities from three Dnieper riparian countries. Representatives from environmental ministries from Republic of Belarus and Ukraine, Smolensk Department of Ecology Management of Russian Federation, State Agency of Water Management and State Sanitary-Epidemiological Service of Ukraine took part in the Forum.

Within two days of the Forum, participants discussed the problems of the Dnipro river basin, presented the experience of NGOs and cooperation with different stakeholders (local government, science, business, etc.), reviewed a draft trilateral Agreement on Cooperation in the Use and Protection of Dnieper river, and held a workshop on public participation in water resources management in the context of the Water Convention and its Protocol on Water and Health. Results of the Forum were reflected in the Resolution. The final chord of the Forum was clean up action on Dnieper bank “To Dnieper with love!” which was attended by representatives of Russia and Ukraine.

Belarusian writer — a Forum participant, Vasil Yakovenko, speaking about the problems of the runoff reduction of the Dnieper (the Black Sea annually receives 30 km3 less water through the loss of the Dnieper water) and desertification, said: “The three governments should not think about fresh Dnieper water splashing over the land surface, but about saving and building up its flow into the Black sea. The problem of restoring over dried by melioration lands, conservation of wetlands, water logging of the new territories acquires even greater urgency and importance in connection with the necessity of treatment of disfigured by imprudent surgery Dnieper basin.”

Problems of Dnieper river basin were highlighted during the Forum: the consequences of Chernobyl and increased morbidity, especially among children in the affected areas of Belarus, the danger of uranium wastes in Ukraine, the draining of the wetlands of Pripyat and the resumption of peat mining; macrophytes overgrowth and algae blooming of Dnieper reservoirs, poor state of small rivers and tributaries of the Dnieper. Forum participants supported the idea of representatives of Kievodokanal (Kyiv Water utility) to conduct a wide information and educational campaigns among consumers about the dangers of phosphate detergents and refusal of their application.

“Dnieper provides 70% of the Ukrainian population with drinking water, over the past decade the quality of the Dnieper water dropped to 3–4 quality classes. Without solving the problem of water protection in the river it is not possible to provide safe drinking water, even with the introduction of the high technologies of water treatment and purification,” said Anna Tsvetkova, UNENGO “MAMA-86”. “Being Parties to the Protocol on Water and Health, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine have made international commitments to ensure the right to water and sanitation in our countries through the implementation of integrated water resources management (IWRM). Today, our governments, implementing the provisions of the Protocol within countries, should begin to cooperate to address water and health problems in a transboundary context in the Dnieper River basin by setting the common targets for the reduction and prevention of the water related diseases, by developing joint measures and establishing of joint sanitary-epidemiological monitoring and early warning system to response emergency situations, including extreme weather events and emergencies.”

“Public has not yet become a full participant in the process of environmental decision-making in Belarus and other countries of the Dnieper basin”, emphasized Grigorii Fedorov, lawyer, member of the council of NGO “EcoHouse”, Belarus, — “Governmental authorities tend to reduce public participation to mere information about already agreed draft decision. Such an approach violates the Aarhus Convention.”

“After an eight-year interval, finally, an opportunity to discuss the problems of the Dnieper basin and their solutions came out to the public”, said Vyacheslav Sandul, a member of the Dnieper Basin Council, co-founder of the Ukrainian environmental movement “Hortitsky Forum”. “Back in 2003, a draft Dnieper Convention was developed, but so far it has not been accepted, cross-border cooperation has a narrow departmental character and is based on bilateral agreements concluded in the early 90s that now need revision on a tripartite basis according to the requirements of the Water Convention and the Water Framework Directive. As a step toward IWRM of the basin the development and acceptance of Lower Dnieper Inter Oblasts Sub-Basin Agreement within the area from Dneprodzerzhinskoii hydro accumulative station to Dnieper mouth, between Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, Kherson and Mykolayiv oblasts is needed.”

The new draft Agreement on Cooperation in the Use and Protection of Dnieper river between the Governments of the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine was presented to the public for consideration. “The draft document has not yet met international standards. However, any drafts can be improved. Much more important is that governments and parties to the process have a common goal — a real ecological rehabilitation of the Dnipro Basin, as well as have a desire to cooperate, coordinate their actions for the benefit of this goal,” — said Victor Melnychuk, an expert of the National Ecological Center of Ukraine.

Forum participants expressed concern of the weakening of environmental laws in our countries. Ukrainian environmentalists have expressed outright opposition to the amendment of the environmental legislation submitted by the representative of the President of Ukraine in Verkhovna Rada, member of the Ukrainian Parliament Yuri Miroshnichenko, adoption of which will totally destroy the existing system of control and management of natural resources in the country.

“Today the real eco-resource and socio-economic state of water usage in Dnieper river basin is extremely complex and reflects the consequences of the “victories” over the nature during the Soviet period to achieve the strategic goals of the defence at that time without regard to consequences and prognoses that have led to irreversible changes of hydro geological, hydrological, biological and other components of the stability of the Dnieper basin ecosystem,” — said Gregory Romanenko, an expert of Ukrainian Veterans Association. “We have demanded and will demand from the governments not declarations of environmental protection goals but actions according to the regulatory and legal instruments and international obligations. We want to see the Dnieper not as a water resource in the exclusive possession of the individual departments, but as a River — a full-flowing and clean, for the benefit of future generations and nature.”