Posts Tagged ‘ecology’


When no heads are better than one? Odessa

December 11, 2016

“Two heads are better than one” is an old idiom which can occasionally be true.

“Great minds think alike” is another – although perhaps “great minds generally think alone” is more accurate.

How about “No heads are better than one”?  It is an idiom that will probably prove to be true of the management of the Tuzly Lagoons National Park in Odessa.


A competition was recently held by the Regional State Administration Ecology Department to transparently select a head of the aforementioned national park,  The incumbent for 30 years, Ivan Rusev decided not to take part in the competition for reasons of pride (it appears).  To be fair Mr Rusev he can take pride in what he has achieved during his tenure and perhaps considers himself to know far more about the ecology of the national parks in Odessa than those that would scrutinise his necessarily submitted documents, or ask him questions.

How costly that pride will be for the ecology and management of the national parks in Odessa region remains to be seen.

For those entering he competition for the position, it was scored from a grand total of 135 points.  The winner, Vitaly Chakir managed to score a miserable 42 points – or 31.1%

So either unprepared or simply clueless was Mr Chakir that he could not basic questions such as what an ecosystem is, or which fish, if any, live in the lagoons he will now apparently manage.

Indeed, even without such very basic knowledge and with his 31.1% score, Odessa Regional Authority Ecology Department has recommended he be appointed.

Lo, a reader is left to ponder just how abysmal a candidate must be before Odessa RSA will declare them to be so, or who is behind Mr Chakir and why?   (Rumour would have it Batkivshchyna local MP Mogilnikov for access to resources in the park.)

It is perhaps only in politics where such a dismal result and complete lack of professional understanding can actually mean victory – yet this is not a political position but one of civil service.

However because it is not a political position does not mean it is not a political decision within the RSA Ecology Department that Mr Chakir would emerge the winner – and that may explain why he simply could not even be bothered to attempt to do even the most basic of preparation for examinations and interviews.

Unfortunately, when those interviews hit YouTube then questions will be rightly asked how the appointment of such a clearly sub-standard candidate can occur.  Perhaps the Odessa RSA will now be shamed into reversing this decision and holding the competition again.  Perhaps the environmentalists of Odessa will create sufficient unfavourable noise that the Ministry in Kyiv will take note – particularly when the 15th December sees the closing date for candidates to replace Mr Saakashvili as Governor and eyes will inevitably turn to Odessa once again.

(Thus far there are 3 candidates for Governor – Alexandr Ostapenko, Garik Korogodski and Vasyly Horbal.)

However, for the professional and qualified staff that will now have to work under the guidance of Mr Chakir, clearly “no heads are better than one”.


Ukraine ahead of much of Europe, USA and BRICS – for once!

November 20, 2013

There are few global indices where Ukraine has not only progressed favourably, but is also ahead of many EU nations, the USA, Russia and China et al – and yet, when it comes to the Climate Change Performance Index 2013, Ukraine has climbed to 19th place – doing exactly that (per page 6/7).



Monsanto Ukraine

May 26, 2013

Placing my cards on the table – I know nothing about agriculture.

Well almost nothing.  I know how much a new combined harvester costs in Ukraine as I lent the wife’s cousin half the cost of one, as he is a crop farmer with a lot of land just outside Nikoliev and needed a new harvester – but that really is about it – aside from an O level in biology and some general knowledge relating to an awareness that Ukraine has the most fertile soil in Europe.

As regular readers will know, I try and stay away from the main stream media stories and write about things that remain “off the radar” but really should have more coverage in my view.

Ten days ago, I almost blogged about a statement from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) relating to Ukraine.  I was going to comment on it because it seemed so unnecessary.  The USDA stated:

“In the 2013/2014 marketing year, which begins July 1, the major grain exporters, among them Ukraine, will show double-digit growth rates in the production and export of food and feed wheat and corn.

In the production of corn (+24%, 26 million tons) Ukraine will rise by two lines – from eighth to sixth, and in the production of coarse grains (+17%, 34.5 million tons) by one line (from eighth to seventh). By the export of corn and forage Ukraine this season will join the three world leaders, surpassing Argentina and Brazil, the report says.

The USDA forecasted that global grain harvest this season promises to be much better than in the previous year, when crops were affected by drought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects a growth in the production of almost all major crops by 7-13%.

Ukraine, like other post-Soviet grain exporters – Russia and Kazakhstan, will be able to boast of a much greater dynamic. The overall picture for Ukraine this year was not spoiled even by the abnormal snowfall in March – its effect was offset by favorable weather conditions for planting and expansion of arable land.

Wheat harvest in Ukraine will grow, as predicted by USDA, 40% to 22 million tons. According to this index, the country will stay in the ninth place in the world.”

“Well, and?” I thought –  Aside from competition for US farmers, possible agricultural machinery import and a bit of a lift for the Ukrainian government, the point of that statement is what?   Perhaps an indirect pointer to the $ billions China has been spending on agricultural infrastructure throughout Ukraine for the US Government?  If so why not just tell them?

Having blogged about Chinese investment in Ukrainian agricultural infrastructure a few times – and knowing nothing about agriculture other than that stated at the beginning – I let the USDA statement pass and blogged about something else that day instead – but decided to keep my eye on US agricultural interests in Ukraine for a month or so just in case it was a “feeder” for a forthcoming announcement relating to grain and crop farming with US/Ukrainian interest.

Well, I didn’t have to wait long.

Two days ago, the worrisome organisation that is US GM seed giant Monsanto announced it was going to invest $140 million in a corn seed plant in Ukraine – probably located in Vinnytsya.  It claims for non-GM seeds.

As it happens Ukrainian law forbids GM crops either being imported or grown in Ukraine – and long may that ever be the case.

The new seed plant is envisaged to be ready by August (ish) 2015, working with only conventional seeds.  All jolly good as far as FDI, employment, agricultural storage and export and economics are concerned – and just as, if not more important, Ukrainian agriculture remains GM free.

But I am troubled.

The reply of Vitaliy Fedchuk of Monsanto Ukraine, when asked whether there were expectations that the laws would change is diversionary.

“Indeed, in Ukraine only conventional seeds are allowed for production and importation, thus we will be working with conventional seeds only.”

That does not answer the question of whether Monsanto anticipates a change in the laws relating to the import of and growing of GM seeds in Ukraine.  It simply affirms the laws today.

Does the answer perhaps lay with the outcome of any presidential elections on 29th March 2015 when it comes to the willingness of any president to sign any proposed changes to the current law that may yet get proposed?

I surely hope not, as I would be delighted for Ukraine to remain GM production free – but something to keep a very watchful eye on in 2015/16.

This at a time when world-wide protests against Monsanto take place!


EU sponsored education on the Danube Delta

May 24, 2013

A short entry today owing to technical issues and my woeful IT skills which manage to lose a fair amount of pending material, including what had been written yesterday for publishing today.

Anyway, I have written here and here  about the quite beautiful and unique natural environment of the Danube Delta before, relating to the EU Action Plan for th Danube and Danube region.

Nothing I can write will do justice to just how special that environment is – so I won’t try.

As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt – so it is encouraging to note that the EU has spent a few Euros to gather together schools, teachers and students from Ukraine, Moldova and Romania, all of whom have regions that share the Danube Delta, in an effort to expand and appreciate the surroundings they live within, under the umbrella of the EU ENRTP programme.

A project I refuse to decry, despite the fact others will undoubtedly consider it a waste or EU funds.




Danube Action Plan – Progress Report

April 10, 2013

What seems like a very long time ago, back in April 2011 in fact, I wrote about an EU sponsored action plan relating to the River Danube and the nations through which it flows.

It naturally effects Ukraine, as the Danube Delta is partly Ukrainian territory – shared with Romania.  It is in fact part of my home Oblast of Odessa, and the Delta happens to be a very beautiful place indeed.

It is now time for an update on how the EU action plan has progressed thus far.

Let’s hope that by 2020 the environmental and ecological targets are met – together with the social and economic targets too.


Regional Development (Again)

April 1, 2013

A few days ago I briefly wrote about regional development in Ukraine, concluding that “Accepting there is no perfect method – why do we expect a perfect outcome?” – A fair point I think.

What I didn’t do, is state what I thought would be a reasonable model to pursue – naughty me!

After all, I get rather tired of reading commentary and monologue that is quick and oft justified in the crucification of the current models and their outcomes – but that crucially omit any thought about how to improve the model, or if the model is about as good as it can be, how to manage the expectations for perfect results from an imperfect model.

Naturally the first thing to recognise is that regional development is exactly that – regional.

Whilst some issues will be constant throughout many regions and thus should form part of a national development plan controlled and implemented nationally – regional development issues are the prerogative of local government and they are best placed to identify and implement local development.

In short, the individualities of Odessa are not all easily transposed to work effectively in Carpathia – despite some prima facie compatibilities.  Not only in the local needs for infrastructure and economic drivers, but also in the availability and regionally bespoke arena of human capital.

The training and development needs of industrialised Donetsk  are not so easily transposed to Yalta for example.  That said, putting in place parameters on regional development simply because “that isn’t how it works here” is not necessarily a good thing either.  Internal innovation at a regional level is one method of development – particularly by SMEs.

Putting up barriers to local innovation is a self-defeating policy for any local government.  Why should local government work harder to generate regional development if SMEs have the desire and ability to work hard instead?  Let them.

Is it not a smarter policy for local government to encourage rather than unnecessarily corral the innovation of its populous?

This naturally would lead to greater interaction between local business and local government and a dialogue that should, theoretically, lead to local government creating a structure whereby the local populous generate greater production either by active assistance or by simply staying out of the way.  In doing so, those SMEs that thrive obviously become sustainable.  Those that fail will reinvent themselves if there is a medium for knowledge exchange within the local business community – preferably one where local government sits and listens.

Where local government can help is in the arena of sustainable and ecologically wise city planning.

Odessa is replete with brownfield sites which stand abandoned and could be turned into business parks or engineering parks.  Brand new, shiny, business incubators are not necessarily going to either meet the needs of the SMEs or provide any dynamic gains for the local economy or employment.

In converting the plentiful brownfield sites, is there not an opportunity to be environmentally conscious at the same time when it comes to energy efficiency?  Does that not create an opportunity for local “green” business and tick all those globally friendly boxes, encouraging grants to continue with such development of other brownfield sites?

If a site is beyond renovation or situated in an area where it holds not commercial or society benefits – flatten it!

If made from brick, crush it and use the crushed material as aggregate to compact under new roads or road repairs rather than the cheapest rubbish the nefariously won tender holders now use.  What is wrong with recycling the materials in derelict buildings?

Collect and sell as scrap the thousands of miles of steel rusting away in disused brownfield buildings if they need to be demolished.  There is an international market for scrap metal – use it!

Has anybody in the Odessa local government even tried to evaluate the benefits of having so many business incubators via a vis development of a brownfield site into a business park or engineering park?  Are they even capable of coming up with a reasonable evaluation model?  I doubt it.

Local authorities should also consider the cultural side of local life.  Can an abandoned factory warehouse be used for a dance centre, a go-cart course, a youth club etc rather than stand empty generating precisely nothing – not even local good-will toward the local government, let alone community spirit?

It is all very well putting up cheap and cheerful play equipment, or resurfacing a footpath in a run up before local or national elections in an effort to try and buy voters, but such acts are seen for what they are.  They are certainly not what can be classed as regional development.

As many people state, they wish elections would happen every year for that is the only time the politicians actually actively make good the state of necessary repair in the local voting regional seats.

Naturally there is the issue of funding – and here perhaps more than anywhere, local government has a vital role to play.  Not only in spreading out the meager budget granted by Kyiv to meet immediate problems – and stealing half of it doesn’t help – but also in attracting funding from the EU, World Bank, EBRD, EIB etc., not only by way of grants but also by way of loans.

Turning the financing of local development into a business whereby money has to be repaid rather than just accepted as charity by local government, would necessarily sharpen minds when it comes to return on investment within the local community – whether that return be directly economic or by way social good will through increasing the quality of life.  In short something of a mixture of that often hard to identify “added value”, “good will”,  or community/local government driven “inclusive growth”.

When considering the “feel good” factor within local society, it is all very well to have the roads in Odessa city centre is good condition, all the facades looking pristine – not that the current local authorities can even manage that, despite it being all that 99% of tourists ever see and experience – what about the redevelopment of urban areas in dire need of attention – such as Moldovanka in Odessa?

Where is the plan, where is the on-going implementation of that plan, and where is the budgetary forecasts for such much needed development?  If it exists on paper, it certainly has not been turned into reality in any shape or form.  In the decade I have been living in Odessa, Molodvanka has done nothing other than fall apart even further.

When part of the city becomes equated with ever increasing squaller, is it any wonder it becomes a haven for Russian and Moldavian criminals in hiding – for drug dealers – for an illicit sex trade – a place to hire a thug or two?  In Moldovanka, the development issue is certainly the quality of housing and the lack of policing.  We are talking about fundamentals for a part of a city that aspires to be a rising star of European tourism.

The issues of Moldovanka are hardly likely to give a large economic return when tackled – at least immediately – but if Odessa is a region, Moldovanka is a region within a region and is in desperate need of development before it literally falls down both physically and to the lowest levels of society.  Perhaps that is the local authorities plan – who knows, they do not seem to have another that are actually implementing to prevent it.

Anyway, though the areas I have mentioned above are broad in their scope and less than detailed, they do at least outline some issues for consideration when it comes to development for Odessa as city – and to my mind all major cities are a region unto themselves, albeit within the larger prescribed regions as recognised by central government.

Thus, in an effort not to be like so many commentators who put forward no alternatives, I have at least spent an entire 20 minutes thinking about the development model – rather than just pooh-pooh it without any constructive thinking whatsoever.  After all, I would hate for you dear readers to simply write me off as just another persistent complainer unable or too lazy to offer up some thoughts for improvement!


Nuclear stress tests – Ukraine National Action Plan

March 18, 2013

It seems a long time ago since I wrote about Ukraine, Ensreg and the IAEA following the Fukushima disaster.  Indeed it was back in May and June 2011.

In the entry of 27th May 2011, I raised an eyebrow over the proposed “stress tests” that were to be performed on the Ukrainian nuclear facilities.

In accordance with the Ensreg proposals, herewith is the Ukrainian National Action Plan.

On Friday I received an email from Ensreg informing me that the feedback period had been extended until 20th March – 2 days hence from this entry – should there be any comment or poignant questions.

Thanks for that timely period to give careful consideration to the National Plan – I suppose I should be grateful I was given 72 5 days to read it and offer up some queries that may or may not get past on, or thrown into a pot of similar (but possibly not the same) questions !

The Ensreg email stated “Please note that ENSREG will not reply to the individual questions, but relevant questions will be grouped and used as an input to prepare for the Peer Review Workshop which will take place from 22-26 April 2013. The Peer Review Workshop report will be published after adoption by ENSREG, and later it will also be presented at the next ENSREG Conference, scheduled on 11-12 June 2013.”

Thus, once again I will refer you to my entry of 27th May 2011 – please reread it and then refer the aforementioned paragraph from the email Ensreg sent to me late on 15th March.

Due you think my eyebrow is still raised dear readers?


Beware the Tides of March – Black Sea ecosystem

March 16, 2013

Ok – lame title, but “Beware the Ides of March” is such a wonderful line it would be a shame not to use it – especially so when on the Ides of March several issues relating to the Black Sea and its ecosystem allow for a little corny wordplay in the title of this entry.

So what issues am I referring to that relate specifically to?

Well firstly a large oil spill off the coast of Odessa near the Danube Delta.

Secondly, and much more importantly, a UN report on the dramatic drop in shark numbers in the Black Sea.

That’s it for today.  Having smugly managed to engineer a mention of the Ides of March into my entry written on the Ides of March – albeit published the day after – I am going to enjoy a warm and sunny afternoon in Odessa.

As a post script for all you WWII boffins – and staying with the Ides of March theme – on 15th March 1939, Carpatho-Ukraine declared its independence from Czechoslovakia, but was annexed by Hungary the next day. “Beware the Ides of March” was seemingly ignored.

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