Ukraine is located in Eastern Europe and shares its borders with Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and Russia. It is partially bounded by two bodies of water - most notably, the Black Sea. Kiev is the capital of Ukraine and the largest city, followed by Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Odessa. One of the most famous cites in Ukraine is Yalta where the historic Yalta Conference was held in 1945.
Ukraine has a strong artistic and cultural heritage and offers travelers many choices of attractions and destinations to explore such as castles, palaces, ancient cathedrals, and stunningly beautiful national parks and reserves. Recently, eco-tourists have been finding Ukraine to be an inspiration in the effort to protect wetlands, coastal regions, and majestic mountains. With three types of areas under protection, Ukraine is home to biospheres like the Shats'kyi National Park, ecological reserves for fauna such as National Park Podil'ski Tovtry, and the Cape Mart’yan Reserve which also protects shoreline and aquatic ecosystems.
Environmental challenges in Ukraine
Soviet policies of raising industrial and agricultural productivity and a lack of effective pollution controls have seriously degraded the environment in Ukraine.
- The 1986 explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl’ nuclear power plant had an enormous impact on the region’s environment. Northern Ukraine and especially the southern part of neighbouring Belarus were the most severely contaminated areas from the radioactive plume. Radioactive materials from the accident seeped into the ground, contaminating farmland and the water supply. One-tenth of Ukraine's land area was affected by the radiation. According to UN reports, approximately one million people were exposed to unsafe levels of radiation through food. Approximately 3.5 million ha of agricultural land and 1.5 million ha of forest were also contaminated. The long-term impact on human health and the environment is still being assessed. The Chernobyl’ complex was finally shut down completely in December 2000. However, Western nations offered financial assistance for the completion of two other nuclear power plants that would produce enough power to make up for the loss of the power supply from the Chernobyl’ plant.
- Air pollution is a significant environmental problem in Ukraine. It is especially severe in such industrial centres as Zaporizhzhya, Luhans’k, Dnipropetrovsk, Kryvyy Rih and Donets’k. In 1992, Ukraine had the world's seventh-highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions. The coal-burning industries of eastern Ukraine, which emit high levels of sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and dust, have created severe problems. Lightly industrialized cities in the west, such as Uzhhorod and Khmelnytskyy, face air pollution caused by the prevalence of inefficient automobiles.
- Industrial and agricultural pollutants have contaminated soil and drinking water throughout the country. Polluted water, heavy metal, organic compounds, and oil-related pollutants are released into the Black Sea. The water supply in some areas of the country contains toxic industrial chemicals up to 10 times the concentration considered to be safe. The pollution of the nation's water has resulted in large-scale elimination of the fish population, particularly in the Sea of Azov.
- Funds for recycling and conservation programs are lacking and pollution controls remain at a minimum.
- At present, 40% of the total territory of Ukraine is now eroded land and this is growing at approximately 80,000 hectares annually.
- In 2001, only 1.6% of Ukraine's total land area was protected, including 22 Wetlands of International Importance. Fifteen mammal species, 10 bird species, and 20 plant species are threatened, including the European bison, the Russian desman, and the Dalmatian pelican. Conservation of natural resources is a stated high priority, although implementation suffers from a lack of financial resources.
- Ukrainians, particularly in rural communities, are being directly affected by climate change impacts. These impacts include warmer temperatures, storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, windstorms and forest fires. These extremes have a direct negative impact on local population (losing homes, harvest, etc). Climate change impacts such as sea level rise have begun in Ukraine along the Black and Azov Seas. Sea level rise created vulnerability to the sea coastlines: increased probability of catastrophic floods on some rivers; salinization and bogging of pastures and washing out of beaches; and damage to amenities: communications, municipal buildings and facilities.
Citizens’ community involvement
The structure of civil society in Ukraine is characterised by rather high levels of non-partisan political action and voluntary participation. Ukrainians prefer giving and volunteering outside of organised structures. Membership in Civil Society Organisations is very low, while significant numbers of people participate in informal movements and meetings. Volunteering for public benefit is a commonly performed act by Ukrainians and CSOs report high levels of human potential, which are mostly volunteers. Thus, civil society in Ukraine is characterised by deep rooted and massive energy for civic participation, which has the tendency to spontaneous and informal action. However, civil society’s organised structures are not attractive for Ukrainians.
Civil society is considered to be a prime force behind environmental protection activities in Ukraine and this activity receives wide public support.
Government environmental policies
Ukraine has a pollution fee system, which levies taxes on air and water emissions and solid waste disposal. The resulting revenues are channeled to environmental protection activities, but enforcement of this pollution fee system is lax. For violations to Ukraine’s ecological laws, four kinds of legal responsibility may be applied: disciplinary, administrative, criminal, and property (compensation for damage caused by the violation).
A tax is imposed on the following activities:
- emissions of contaminants by stationary sources into the atmospheric air;
- the discharge of contaminants directly into the water objects;
- the placement of the waste into specifically designated places or facilities, other than the placement of specific types of waste as secondary raw materials;
- the generation of the radioactive waste (including the waste already accumulated) – special regulations apply;
- the temporary storage of the radioactive waste by the producers thereof in excess of the period specified in the special license conditions.
The main act of Ukraine’s working ecological legislation is the law approved five years before the Constitution of Ukraine, “On protecting the natural environment” (1991), which created the basis for all further regulations in the corresponding field. This law considers environmental protection an essential condition of society’s sustainable development and an integrated concept that unites not only its classical and essentially protective understanding, but also ecological safety and rational use of natural resources.
Besides acts of resource regulation, Ukraine approved a number of other ecologically oriented laws of a general character (which were called “horizontal legislation” in the EU legislation), as well as those regulating separate spheres of social development. The other group ecologically oriented “horizontal legislation” establishes special ecological-legal regimens for some categories of territories.
One of the priorities of legislative regulation in Ukraine’s ecological sphere is wildlife protection with the help of bequeathing and preserving of biological diversity.
The important tendency of the last decade became the introduction of ecological factors into regulating different types and sectors of economic, administrative and other activity. Regardless that ecological levers are starting to be gradually introduced into different sectors of Ukraine’s economy, economic, administrative, financial and other legislative areas are still not completely coordinated with the ecological sphere. Most importantly, they don’t always have the mechanisms to introduce ecological factors.
Corporate Social Responsibiliy (CSR)
In today’s Ukraine business does not understand the essence of social responsibility as the activity directed to protect against social and environmental consequences of their activity. This is very typical for Ukrainian companies (not international). The notion is limited to charitable activity or philanthropy. Even so, not many companies are interested in the long-term social responsibility strategy; the most interested are companies with the large number of clients. Here social responsibility is directly connected with the attitude of clients, who consider companies that are doing good for society as trustful. This determines their choice of company’s products. In the underdeveloped market this reason is not a priority for achieving competitive advantage. Ukrainian business is mostly concerned with own survival in the current economic environment although there are efforts to declare social responsibility as a principle of activity.
The private sector maintains an indifferent attitude towards CSOs, while establishing their own bodies to donate to social causes. The concept of corporate social responsibility is very new for Ukraine. The perception of CSR is limited to charitable activities and assistance to state maintained institutions.
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