World Economy

Ukraine Water Strategy High on Development Agenda

Ukraine Water Strategy High on Development Agenda
Ukraine Water Strategy High on Development Agenda
Ageing infrastructure dating back to Soviet times, canals, dams and reservoirs require huge resources–financial, human and technical–and there are new challenges as the climate changes

A campaign to raise awareness of water security in Ukraine could be an inspiration around the world, activists behind it say, after it forced a change in the country’s approach to its water resources.

After almost five years of promoting a vision of water security and proactive water management among various stakeholders and the government in Kiev, the issue of water security is now a top development priority for the government, IPSNews reported.

Anna Tsvietkova of local NGO MAMA-86, a partner of the Global Water Partnership intergovernmental organization, and which was involved in the campaign, told IPS this was an example of how expert knowledge combined with awareness-raising could move water, or potentially other topics, to near the top of a country’s development agenda.

“Our work could be an inspiration for groups in other countries. We were active and we gave the best advice. Our government had to accept our proposals (on water security),” she said.

Like many countries, the issue of water security is becoming increasingly important for Ukraine. Groups like GWP Ukraine have said that the state of water resources and water supply in Ukraine is a serious threat to national security, with its effects exacerbated by economic and political crisis, military conflict and climate change.

The country has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas and studies have shown that surface and ground water resources are unequally distributed between seasons and across the country.

Inefficient management of available water resources, including excess abstraction and pollution, has led to depletion and contamination of water resources, according to local environmental groups.

Meanwhile, ageing and poorly-maintained infrastructure and outdated water and wastewater treatment and technology have caused further problems, including serious sanitation and related health issues.

But until relatively recently, water security in Ukraine was not viewed by the authorities as a concept on its own and was dealt with as part of wider, overarching environmental protection legislation. Authorities–and the public at large–were fixed on the concept of water protection rather than risk-based management.

  Lacking Proper Management

“One of the main threats to water security is that water management is perceived by the people managing it as management of water infrastructure and extracted water, which leaves all other sources of water unmanaged,” Andriy Demydenko of the Ukrainian Center of Environmental and Water Projects told IPS.

“As a result authorities just control water quality and quantity parameters without having any responsibility to reach water targets,” he explained.

He added: “Ageing infrastructure dating back to Soviet times, canals, dams and reservoirs require huge resources – financial, human and technical – and there are new challenges as the climate changes.

“Also, a lack of a scientific basis for decision making and management, shortages in knowledge and capacity building leave Ukraine very vulnerable and unprepared for events such as water scarcity, droughts and floods.”

  Changes Occurring

However, through campaigns and national stakeholder dialogues over the last five years, GWP and local partner groups introduced and promoted the new concept of risk–based or proactive water management.

In 2016 GWP Ukraine organized four stakeholder consultations on the strategic issues of water policy entitled “Rethinking Water Security for Ukraine”.

As a result, GWP Ukraine prepared a publication presenting a proposed set of national water goals, targets of sustainable development, and indicators to assess the progress in achieving goals on the water-energy-food nexus.

And in the last year, multi-stakeholder consultations have taken place to push Ukraine to an integrated water resources management approach.

Indeed, the GWP Ukraine’s work has helped change the environment ministry’s policy on water strategy.

Having initially said its water sector development program was covered under other state programs and strategic documents for water sector development, after seeing GWP’s proposals for a water strategy the ministry decided to approach the EU Water Initiative+ project to help develop its strategy.

Of GWP Ukraine’s original proposals in its consultation document, the Ukrainian government has already accepted proposals on some targets and indicators for Sustainable Development Goal 6 on ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.

The group continues to work with the government to accept other SDG 6 indicators and include them in the country’s development strategy.

It is hoped a concept paper on water sector reforms will be formulated this summer and passed to the government for approval. A draft of the country’s water strategy is to be presented and discussed at the next National Water Policy Dialogue, which is expected to take place sometime at the end of this year.

But, stresses Tsvietkova, the importance of GWP Ukraine’s work is not confined to Ukraine.

The group’s success in pushing change in Ukraine has led to other groups within the GWP CACENA network–covering Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia–to ask for support in the development of their countries’ water policies as part of national development programs.

“They have been very interested,” she said.

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