Building Environmental Management Capacity in Ukraine
Sometimes, cleaning up the environment takes more than tools and technology: It takes knowledge of how to work with people and institutions to achieve a common goal. This is part of the lesson we are learning in improving environmental conditions in the republics of the former Soviet Union.
A case in point is Ukraine, a country most people associate with the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. In fact, Ukraine has one of the most degraded environments of anywhere in eastern Europe, with over 70% of the population living in environmentally dangerous areas. More than 80% of human health problems in Ukraine are believed to be related to environmental conditions. In addition to radiation from the Chernobyl accident, the country is grappling with seriously degraded water resources, crumbling infrastructure, soils contaminated with salt and pesticides, and devastating air pollution.
Among Ukraine’s most contaminated resources is the Dnipro River (sometimes called the Dnieper), the country’s largest river system. The Dnipro drains over 60% of Ukraine’s land surface and supplies water to three quarters of its population. Despite Ukraine’s temperate climate, it is a country with few sources of fresh water—far fewer than in neighboring Russia, for instance. The Dnipro is therefore a precious national resource, and its degradation threatens both public health and economic development in Ukraine.
The sources of pollution to the Dnipro are complex, but an astonishing proportion at least a third of the Dnipro’s flow is made up of untreated effluent discharges from industrial and municipal water users. Other sources include nonpoint source runoff from agricultural activities in upstream regions, both within Ukraine and in Russia and Belarus, through whose territories the Dnipro flows. These discharges must be reduced significantly if the condition of the river is to improve, yet the costs of cleanup are enormous. Even more daunting is the challenge of establishing sound environmental laws and management practices in a country that has not had experience in public consultation, collaborative problem-solving, or cost-efficient green production. The challenge is certainly worth taking on, however. If its current economic and environmental problems can be overcome, Ukraine will become an important figure in regional and international efforts to reduce armed conflict, improve human health, and protect biodiversity.
Ukraine has been an independent nation since 1991, and is making good progress toward the development of a stable, market-based economy. Yet the pace of this change has been discouragingly slow. Some observers suggest that this is because the country has yet to develop a national vision for the future. Others believe that the country’s leaders are either unwilling or unable, because of political obstacles, to achieve the substantive policy reforms that are so badly needed. Most observers, however, believe that an important underlying cause is what is sometimes called a lack of “capacity”—the ability to conceive, develop, and implement policies and actions that advance the country toward its goals.
Immediately following independence, international aid efforts focused on national-level projects such as major infrastructure grants. In recent years, however, the emphasis has shifted toward local initiatives directed at building capacity in local governments and nongovernment organizations (NGOs). Both the U.S. Agency for International Development and the (Canadian) International Development Research Centre have funded projects working with small businesses, individual agricultural operations, grassroots organizations, and similar groups to develop the fundamental management expertise needed to achieve economic reform and environmental protection. Through pilot projects and demonstration sites, aid agencies can teach basic skills while creating a framework for public involvement and outreach. Both agencies are also working closely with local, regional, and national governments (and increasingly with partner governments in neighboring countries like Russia and Belarus).
Typical current aid projects in Ukraine focus on helping the country create appropriate institutional structures (for example, a mechanism to collaborate with neighboring countries on issues of mutual concern) and legal and economic reforms, improved communication among stakeholders, and practical approaches to everyday agricultural, industrial, and municipal management problems. This is more difficult than it might seem. Under the former Soviet Republic, a single Ukrainian farm might have supported 250 people. But in a free-market economy, a single farm using traditional agricultural methods cannot earn enough income to provide for such a large number. To make the farm economically viable, operators must consider and learn how to implement value-added activities such as food processing and craft activities. Similarly, public involvement and collaborative decision making were not highly valued under the communist regime. In the post-communist era, Ukrainian politicians and NGOs are having to learn how to debate issues and develop policy solutions in a collaborative fashion.
The slow pace of economic reforms in Ukraine may therefore be traceable to an old but stubborn problem: getting people to change the way they behave. But in the long run, if Ukrainians can learn the skills needed to succeed in a pluralist, free-market society, those changes will help them create the sound infrastructure and effective legal framework the country needs for sustainable development.
Ukraine’s economic and environmental problems are complex and interlinked. Much recent effort has been directed at “capacity building” for the development of management and policy-making systems, rather than at major infrastructure projects. This represents a change from aid practices of 10 or 20 years ago.
Potential for Regional Leadership
A strong, stable, environmentally progressive Ukraine would be a powerful influence on other republics of the former Soviet Union. Improving environmental and economic conditions in the Ukraine is a key lever in regional and international environmental protection strategies.
Capacity Building Has Numerous Ancillary
If we improve Ukraine’s capacity to conceive, develop, and implement environmental policies and actions, those skills will be transferable to other areas of national policy, including health care, education, and public services. By helping Ukraine to build management and policy-making skills in one area, we can create improved capacity in many other areas of national policy.
Without Capacity Building, Infrastructure
Aid Will Be Wasted
Early experience with international aid to the republics of the former Soviet Union suggests that if people in the recipient nation do not have the requisite management skills and technical training, costly infrastructure will not be adequately constructed or maintained. Weak infrastructure will need more frequent replacement, at higher total cost, than properly built and maintained structures. It therefore makes sense to design programs that build capacity while satisfying basic infrastructure needs.
Ukraine has a culture that is separate and unique. It is inappropriate for Western nations like the United States and Canada to impose their view of appropriate technology, management, policy development, and economic systems. Ukraine should be allowed to develop its own management strategies, tailored to its own culture. International aid directed at capacity building is intrusive and inappropriate.
Is More Important Than Capacity Building
No amount of capacity building can replace the need for basic water, sewerage, solid waste management, transportation, electricity, and telephone systems. These systems must be built first; staff training and development can wait until all necessary infrastructure is in place.
Building is Unnecessary
Capacity building is a buzzword, not a societal need. Every society has natural managers. The challenge for the nation is therefore to identify individuals with the necessary skills to manage infrastructure, conduct collaborative decision-making processes, and develop and implement suitable technologies in industry and municipalities. Capacity-building aid programs are misguided and unnecessary.
Ukraine has a system of environmental laws and policies centered on the Law on Environmental Protection (1991) and various other laws relating to natural reserves, air pollution, biodiversity protection, forest management, and so on. In addition, several national environmental management programs, such as the program for Control of the Environment and Black Sea Protection, provide a framework for environmental improvement. Some of these laws and policies have been developed in cooperation with other countries in the Black Sea Basin, and attempt to comply with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) program “Conservation and Wise Use of Natural and Seminatural Forests in Central and Eastern Europe.”
Generally speaking, Ukrainian environmental laws and policies are centralized at the national level, with the main decision-making body being the Ukrainian Parliament, and with principal bureaucratic authority vested in the Ministry of Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety. To date, the role of nongovernment organizations has been limited, but there is considerable interest in increasing the voice of scientists and educators, and public organizations and citizen groups in the development of environmental policy. Ukraine is now in the midst of significant environmental law reform through the Environmental Reform program, which emphasizes restructuring of economic and legislative systems relating to natural resource extraction, use, and conservation, with a general goal of sustainable development. The country has also endorsed environmental reforms targeted at improved industrial and municipal processes and more effective waste management, including recycling and reuse. The first stage of Environmental Reform (1993–1997) prepared the foundation for legal reform, created a new monitoring framework, and allocated responsibility for key tasks to specific agencies. The second stage, expected to extend until 2010, focuses on analysis of environmental systems, with a goal of identifying assimilative capacity for natural systems in the country. Human health is a major priority in this stage. The third stage (2010 onward) is intended to focus on creation of better control on socioeconomic development, improved enforcement of environmental regulations, and attainment of a “safe and stable environment.”
The text contains many elements that relate to this issue.
· Chapter 2 (Ecosystems: What They Are), Sections 2.1 (“Ecosystems: A Description,” pages 29–31) and 2.2 (“The Structure of Ecosystems,” pages 32–44) describe basic ecological structures.
· Chapter 10 (Wild Species and Biodiversity), Section 10.1 (“Value of Wild Species,” pages 262–267), discusses the intrinsic value of wild species. Section 10.3 (“Biodiversity and Its Decline,” pages 274–282), discusses some of the causes of biodiversity loss, including habitat alteration, pollution, and exotic species.
· Chapter 13 (Energy from Nuclear Power), Section 13.3 (“The Hazards and Costs of Nuclear Power,” pages 358–368) describes the biological effects of radioactive emissions.
· Chapter 15 (Environmental Hazards and Human Health), Section 15.1 (“Links Between Human Health and the Environment,” pages 408–417) discusses several classes of hazards to human health, including the lack of access to necessary resources such as clean water and nourishing food.
· Chapter 17 (Water: Pollution and Prevention) provides an overview of the many factors that influence water quality, including sewage pollution.
· Chapter 18 (Municipal Solid Waste: Disposal and Recovery), Section 18.2 (“Solutions to the Solid Waste Problem,” pages 498–505), discusses management of municipal solid wastes.
· Chapter 19 (Hazardous Chemicals: Pollution and Prevention), pages 513–537, extends that discussion to a range of hazardous chemicals and describes the need for pollution prevention. Section 19.1 (“Toxicology and Chemical Hazards,” pages 514–520) describes the sources and behavior of hazardous materials in the environment. Section 19.4 (“Managing Current Hazardous Wastes,” pages 529–532), and Section 19.5 (“Broader Issues,” pages 532–534), offer arguments for preventive action in hazardous waste management.
· Chapter 20 (The Atmosphere: Climate, Climate Change, and Ozone Depletion), Section 20.3 (“Global Climate Change,” pages 546–559, talks about the impact of greenhouse gases, such as those released in fuel combustion, on global climate change.
· Chapter 21 (Atmospheric Pollution), Section 21.2 (“Major Air Pollutants and Their Sources,” pages 578–586), describes major air pollutants and their impacts.
· Chapter 22 (Economics, Public Policy, and the Environment), Section 22.1 (“Economics and Public Policy,” pages 608–612) discusses the relationship between economic development and the environment. Section 22.2 (“Resources and the Wealth of Nations,” pages 612–618), discusses the concept of natural capital: the goods and services supplied by natural ecosystems.
Pollution prevention and control activities in Ukraine are described in this UN Development Program-Global Environment Fund site.
This site describes the U.S. Agency for International Development’s recent activities in Ukraine.
Another U.S. AID site, this time providing an overview of activities in a broader region of eastern Europe.
This Canadian International Development Research Centre site has links to several documents relating to environmental management projects in the Dnipro Basin.
This article describes clean-up activities in the Dnipro, and provides links to other sites of interest in Ukrainian environmental management.
This site describes conditions in Ukraine 10 years after its independence from the USSR.
This article describes Ukraine’s response to the challenge of remediating contaminated sites, including development of an inventory of sites and the management, transfer, and treatment of wastes.
Agenda 21, arising from the 1992 UN conference in Rio de Janeiro, contains a chapter specifically geared to international cooperation and collaboration in capacity building to advance Agenda 21 goals. This site provides the text of that chapter.
This well-organized Website is devoted to advancing the policy and practice of capacity building in international development cooperation.
Note: In 1998, the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada published a special issue (volume 33, no. 4) on the Dnipro River Basin. Several of the papers cited below are drawn from that issue, but others may be of interest.
Aarkrog, A. “The Radiological Impact of the Chernobyl Debris Compared with That from Nuclear Weapons Fallout.” J. Environ. Radioactivity. 6 (1988): 151–162.
Eade, D. Capacity-Building: An Approach to People-Centred Development. Oxford, UK: Oxfam, 1997.
Guilmette, J.-H. “Lessons Learned from the Environmental Management Development in Ukraine Project.” Water Quality Research Journal of Canada 33, no. 4 (1998): 511–518.
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Building Capacity in the Environmental Goods and Services Industry in the Central And Eastern European Countries: Agenda for Action. Centre for Co-operation with Non-Members, Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry, Industry Committee, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Series: OECD Working Papers 6, no. 7. Paris: OECD, 1998.
Vasenko, O. G. “Environmental Situation in the Lower Dnipro Basin.” Water Quality Research Journal of Canada 33, no. 4 (1998): 511–518.
UNICEF. Central and Eastern Europe in Transition: Public Policy and Social Conditions—Poverty, Children and Policy: Responses for a Brighter Future. Regional Monitoring Report 3. Florence: UNICEF, 1995.
World Health Organization. Health Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident. Summary Report. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1995.