Danube PES schemes are the foundations of green economy in the region



Posted on 10 June 2014  | 
Lubomir Vassilev, Capital Foundation.
Lubomir Vassilev, Capital Foundation.
© WWFEnlarge
Lubomir Vassilev lives in Sofia, Bulgaria. He was the editor in chief of Capital Weekly, one of the most prominent newspapers in Bulgaria. After 5 years in this position, he became business development manager for Capital Foundation. He was approached by WWF to be part of the Danube PES project.

What is your role in the Danube PES project?

Since the very beginning in 2009, I have been a member of the Steering Committee. At that early stage, I was just a member with no knowledge of PES. The other members of the Steering Committee had already a little bit of knowledge because they were either people from WWF or people from institutions like the Ministry of Environment or the Ministry of Finance. I had no background in this area. However it was interesting to meet with the members of this Steering Committee and to give advice for communications activities, in order to make these schemes more popular and to help making their activities more understandable by the people outside of the project.

In 2011, I was nominated as Chairman of the Steering Committee. During the course of the project – and it has been 5 years now, we have had quite a lot of activities together, with the manager of the project Maya Todorova and with the country coordinator Yuliya Grigorova. We organized several tuition courses for journalists around this theme, and also conferences and seminars.

Were you involved in environmental issues as an editor?

Not specifically. I have a personal interest in environmental issues. I am a “green man” at heart. When I was a journalist, I was not specialized in these issues. My work was focused on financial issues. But the environment is very interesting to me, personally.

What was your opinion on the possibility of a green economy before the Danube PES project?

My first impression was that green economy is possible, but it would take one hundred years to become real, at least in Bulgaria. It is always difficult to change people's mentality. In this part of the world, the mentality is that we don't care so much about the environment, we don't care about stuff like this. We don't have that much institutional development and we don't have this mentality that we should preserve our nature. By “we”, I mean society as a whole.

Of course, there are quite a lot of people and organizations like WWF, who are dealing with this. But my general impression was that it will need time to persuade people that this should be done and this can be done. So at the very beginning I was not that much optimistic. But starting to help the project, I became more and more involved and more and more optimistic that it will happen earlier than in one hundred years.

What do you think about the PES pilots that were set up under the project?

The main goal of the project was to understand if PES projects are feasible in the Danube area and in what way this can happen in this region. This goal has been achieved. Now we have some of the answers, even if not all of them. There still are some difficult parts, some difficult trails which are not that easy to take and will lead to nowhere. But there are some trails that can lead you to some results. The 4 pilot projects (they were 5 at the beginning) have had different fates. Some of them are more successful, some are not. But those which are not, also give you some good information and feedback about what to do and what no to do, about how to do it, and how not to do it. In the long term, I believe it is a success because it gives information on which you can build on in future projects. Indeed, it is a first try for this kind of project in Bulgaria and in Europe.

Do you think this project will make things change in mid-term perspective in Bulgaria?

The project is a base you can build on, and then things can change. Indeed, you should start from somewhere. It is like building a house. If you don't have the foundations, you cannot have a building. So this kind of project is the foundations on which you can build.

Did the project change your attitude towards nature?

I understand it better, even if my love for nature is not linked to this project. I am a mountaineer, I hike and enjoy the mountains whenever I have the opportunity. And I have been doing this for many years. However, this project has increased my understanding of nature protection. Before this project, I supported keeping our mountains clean. I have never left waste after myself while being in the mountain. But that was all. Now, because of this project, I can support awareness-raising of sustainable solutions, solving the environmental problems we are facing.

What would be the role of media in this ongoing work regarding the environment?

Media has an important role to play in nature protection. Some people say that if it is not in the media, it has never happened. It is more or less true. You can do many things successfully, but if it is not communicated to people, institutions or the general audience, it will not reach people's minds and bring the desired result. We need to change people's mentality. And for this, we need to access a broader base of people. That is why we need the media.

All of us, who are involved in this project have the responsibility to help the media understand the problems - to explain to them the problems, to tell them the solutions, to make them understand these issues, so they can translate them to their audience.

Interview by Milan Jousten

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