Initial steps for Payments for Ecosystem Services in Ukraine
What are your overall impressions from the PES seminar in Ukraine?
Numerous research papers show that understanding of the value of the "pure water" resource is increasing globally, while at the same time willingness to pay for this ecosystem service is increasing too. Right now, it is important to develop a model for implementation of PES mechanisms in Ukraine that will demonstrate the practical benefits of ecosystem protection for water users.
It is necessary to start implementation of ecosystem services mechanisms in Ukraine today. For example, we can start with PES schemes in nature reserves, small river basins, lakes or certain areas within settlements or farmland. These should be small entities, so that it is not necessary to change the economic and legal framework.
PES schemes at state level should be initiated and implemented by central authorities. This would require political will and long-term harmonization, especially if legislative changes are needed. In some countries the impetus for the introduction of PES schemes comes from grants from international institutions to support reforms in the environmental sector, where the state cannot provide sufficient funding. In Ukraine, we have yet to seize this opportunity.
In the recent PES seminar in Donetsk – big industrial city of the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine - many people participated. We had ecologists, engineers from big and small industrial enterprises, experts from waste water treatment plants and power stations, water resource managers, representatives of environmental inspectorates from the Severski Donetsk river basin, representatives of non-governmental organizations.
What was the most important lesson learnt from the seminar?
Participants accepted the information presented at the seminar with great interest, because they witness the terrible environmental problems and see the unwillingness of the state to solve them. The most common methods used by the state in Ukraine to influence the users of natural resources are the compulsory and the prohibitive methods. This leads to a lack of interest to carry out environment protection measures at one’s own expense and reduces the effect on economic and environmental changes.
The introduced economic instruments such as payments for resource management, economic valuation of natural resources, buying and selling of pollution rights, environmental insurance, preferential taxation, subsidies and others, do not provide appropriate incentives for the efficient use of natural resources.
Various nature-related taxes, contributions and charges should be used in different ways, so that they reflect the requirements of sustainable development. It is obvious that the income derived by the state from the use of natural resources should be used primarily for the benefit of residents of the resource areas, because these natural resources are public property. Therefore, this income should be sent to finance welfare programmes in the region. Also, it makes sense to direct the funds, which were received from the compensation payments, to be used for the development of environmentally friendly alternative activities that are not related to the removal or destruction of natural resources (for example tourism, recycling).
Where do you see the future for PES schemes in Ukraine?
At the seminar we presented a project for a local-level public PES scheme in the Kalmius river basin (Azov sea basin). One of the significant environmental problems of the Kalmius river basin is the high level of water pollution. This is the result of waste water discharge and diffusion inflow of different pollutants from the catchment area. The goal of the proposed scheme is to improve water quality in the Kalmius river basin through the arrangement of economic activities and implementation of forest melioration on the riversides. Our purpose is to clean up the coastal protective zone and implementation of forest melioration, where it will have maximum impact to reduce water pollutions of the Kalmius river basin. The proposed source of funding is from private businesses. The types of instruments to be used are local funds, compensations to small businesses and local authorities.
I am pleased that the proposed scheme received great support from participants in the seminar. They decided that the new River basin council in Kalmius will be a good platform for implementation of this idea and a good start for the introduction of PES schemes in Ukraine.