A public evaluation of the River Viryovchyna was made
During autumn 2003 and winter and spring 2004, KC members
conducted ecological-cultural field surveys in the part of the river valley that
lies in Kherson Oblast. They conducted visual research and took photos of the
present state of the riverbed, identified point sources of river pollution, and
monitored human impact on the river. They studied the landscape, took photos of
natural landscapes in the river basin, mapped plant communities and monitored
the fauna. They also collected plant samples in order to establish a breeding
centre for native plants. It was discovered that the state of the river valley
within Kherson city was catastrophic. There were no protected riverbanks or
water-protection zones; riverbanks were covered by houses and domestic buildings,
animal and industrial complexes; discharges from the city wastewater treatment
plant flowed into the river. There was a dump of solid communal waste on the
river bank, and very often a great of rubbish was visible in places where the
banks should be protected.
On the basis of the field data gathered, scientific rationales
for the establishment of two protected areas were prepared: for the "Viryovchyna
floodplains" landscape reserve of local importance and the "Ostrivets"
(Small Island) landscape monument of local importance.
Awareness-raising and ecological activities were carried out
Since February 2003, KC has been a member of the Initiative Group
on the issue of poor drinking water quality in Kherson. In conjunction with
Working Groups on the "Toloka" project (http://www.toloka.kiev.ua),
which includes more than 20 NGOs, three round table meetings were held: 20
November 2003 - "The State of Water Bodies of Kherson City and Reasons for
the Decline in Drinking Water Quality", 22 March 2004 - "River
Viryovchyna - Beauty and Pain", and 28 March - discussion of joint actions
devoted to improving the environmental state of the river.
During autumn 2003, a 2-ha landscape park was established at a
water-protection zone on the river where the land remained unploughed. On 14
November 2003, after an official appeal to the City Mayor, KC received 70 trees,
which were planted around the "Ostrivets" natural landscape monument.
On 25 November 2003, KC took part in the training session, "Local
Authorities and the Public - a Mechanism for Interaction", in which
people's deputies from rayon and village councils and representatives of NGOs
took part. KC prepared an appeal to the people's deputies of rayon councils
about the critical state of the River Viryovchyna and the establishment of a
model (reference) section of the river near Stepanivka village, in Kherson city,
Suvorivsky Rayon. On 26 March 2004, Suvorivska Rayon Council in Kherson made
decision #128, "On the Critical Environmental State of the River
Viryovchyna". With the help of the "Knights Club", an appeal to
Kherson Oblast and City Councils was prepared. It contained a proposal to
develop an integrated programme for the environmental rehabilitation of the
River Viryovchyna and to take urgent action to implement articles of the Water
Code of Ukraine, namely to establish water-protection zones and maintain them
properly with the involvement of NGOs.
Together with the Environmental Department of Kherson Regional
Museum, KC organised an exhibition, "River Viryovchyna - Beauty and Pain",
to mark International Water Day (22 March 2004). The exhibition included
herbariums, photos, maps, booklets and posters showing the current state of the
river and the work of NGOs to improve it. It promoted the awareness of the
population of Kherson city and Oblast about the environmental state of the River
Viryovchyna. The exhibition was well received in the city and oblast. It formed
the basis for organising an "Environmental Month" in secondary and
grammar schools and other educational institutions in the city.
In May 2004, KC members met with teachers from Stepanivka
Secondary School: together they decided to establish the "Club of River
Lovers" in the school, to conduct joint environmental activities at the
river and to co-ordinate events devoted to river rehabilitation.
Public hearings were held
On 23 June 2004, public hearings about the environmental state of
the River Viryovchyna were held in Stepanivka village, which is part of
Suvorivsky Rayon, Kherson city. Representatives of the local authorities, NGOs
and the mass media, teachers from Stepanivka School #17 and residents of
Stepanivka were present at the hearings. The participants were informed about
the results of work carried out within the framework of the "Protect Our
Rivers" project and prospects for solving the environmental problems of the
River Viryovchyna in the future. The following decisions were made:
1. To send requests to Kherson Interregional Office of the Public
Prosecutor, the State Department of the Environment and Natural Resources in
Khersonska Oblast, State Construction and Communal Affairs Department, and
Oblast and City Sanitation and Epidemiological Services to assess the
environmental state of the river and in the future to co-ordinate the work of
NGOs, local authorities, educational institutions and individual citizens when
joint activities to protect the River Viryovchyna were being held.
The important result of the request sent was decision #29 (dated
27 August 2004) of the Regular Commission on Environmental Issues and
Environmental Protection of Khersonska Oblast Council to establish a
Co-ordination Council, involving specialists from field departments and people's
delegates of oblast, city and district councils, as well as the general public,
in the development of an integrated programme to rehabilitate the
water-protection zone of the River Viryovchyna.
2. To establish the "Club of River Lovers" in
Stepanivka Secondary School #17 (the participants were in complete agreement
with the words of the School Director about the importance of children's
environmental awareness and holistic understanding of the environment).
3. To start work to develop a partner NGO project to establish
Nature Protection Fund sites of local importance - the "Viryovchyna Gully"
protected area (with the approval of the State Department of the Environment and
Natural Resources in Khersonska Oblast) and the "Ostrivets' natural
Public hearings became the first step in the process of involving
the wider population in solving the environmental problems of the river. Because
of this, the public should have become aware that its everyday life, activities
and health depend on the state of a small river.