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Filed under: Environment Governance

Early steps of cooperation between citizens and local authorities in Ukraine

                                                                               

These days, the problem of solid waste management is at the top of the list for many Ukrainian administrative and territorial units. In Tulchyn district (with a population of about 60,000) it requires an immediate solution. The sanitary situation is getting worse in the majority of district towns and villages: new, uncontrolled waste dumps keep emerging, while the existing landfill has exhausted its capacity and is 99 percent full.

As my colleague, Andrey Ivanov, reminded us in his TED Talk, Ukraine is certainly not the only country in Europe to experience problems with municipal waste management. While some European countries plan to completely stop using landfills to deal with waste over the next five to seven years, the majority of  Ukrainian municipalities continue to intensively exploit existing landfills, many of which do not comply with established standards. As UNDP’s analysis (pdf, in Ukranian) on solid waste systems recently found out, 314 Ukrainian landfills (about seven percent) are overloaded, and 897 (about 20 percent) don’t meet safety requirements.  

Starting in May 2011, the Cabinet of Ministers’ Decree obliged all home  and land owners, as well as service providers of waste disposal, to introduce separate waste collection for recycling. Local governments must now think about raising public awareness on environmental issues, how to reduce the amount of waste that individual homes produce, and how to develop local programmes for waste management. Unfortunately, most  local governments are not prepared for this – so far there are no funds in  local budgets for procurement of special containers, and they have no experience working with the local population to promote recycling.

So where to start? For the reasons mentioned above, the Tulchyn district is a good candidate. However, neither Tulchyn, nor its neighbouring villages, can afford to embrace the new approach to waste management on their own. But what if they were to join forces? This might seem obvious enough, but  this kind of co-operation between municipalities is possibly a first on this issue –  in our case, the city of Tulchyn and the villages of Suvorovka and Kynashev are involved in the initiative, with support from UNDP and Switzerland.

As one of the first projects of its type in the country, we must iron out many details as we go: for instance, how do we come to a common understanding of the problems between municipalities and ordinary citizens? How do we manage reciprocal expectations? What sort of processes do we put in place in order to encourage  collaboration among municipalities? There will, no doubt, be a number of steps  as well as the occasional false start. We’ll be able to draw on lessons from other countries and experiences, but we  also need to come up with our own local innovations. This is the reality of dealing with complex issues that involve behavioural as well as policy change. We’ll keep you posted on our progress and learning as we move along.