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Ukraine: Canada Aids Water Project

  • Carol Macivor

Ottawa, 28 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A Canadian aid project is helping clean up Ukraine's water supply.

In the aftermath of Chornobyl and decades of industrial and ecological degradation, it is estimated that 70 percent of Ukraine's population lives in environmentally hazardous areas.

One of the "victims" is the Dnipro, Ukraine's largest river, which empties into the Black Sea. It provides drinking water for 33 million people -- about two-thirds of the population. Nearly 20 million cubic meters of untreated effluent and sewage is dumped into the river each year, causing a variety of health problems and resulting in lower agricultural output.

This is where Canada enters the picture, with a $3.5 million Canadian aid project by the International Development Research Center - IDRC for short.

Its director of the Central and Eastern European office, Jean Guilmette, says the project is designed " to strengthen the ability of Ukrainian institutions to manage the Dnipro system, particularly encouraging the exchange of information and experience between Ukrainian agencies." He adds that "this may not sound like much, but it represents a major shift in mentality. Previously, everything they did was organized out of Moscow and these various departments and agencies did not talk to each other."

Guilmette's group started with a study of pollution levels in the Dnipro - but on the understanding that the three agencies that previously had separate responsibility for various parts of the river system would have to work together or the project was off.

Guilmette says "they did that and it opened their eyes to the possibilities of co-operation at a practical level and that's important because the theory of what we are talking about is hard to understand unless you see it in practice on a day-to-day basis."

The project is now focusing on the southern industrial city of Zaporizhzhia which is on the Dnipro. Because of upstream river pollution and the 1,100 industrial plants that provide jobs for the city's 900,000 residents, Zaporizhzia is, according to Guilmette, "a virtual toxic dump site."

Canada has introduced new technology that is saving time and money in locating the frequent breaks and leaks in the city's antiquated water system and speeding up the time it takes to repair the damage.