Posts Tagged ‘environment’

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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.

tu

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”.

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Chernobyl reactor entombed at last

November 29, 2016

A very short entry to firstly acknowledge a major piece of engineering, and secondly the symbolic entombment of a toxic Soviet legacy within a western funded and built sarcophagus – (Sarcastic readers are now pondering whether the Verkhovna Rada should be next perhaps?)

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The full facts and figures can be found at the EBRD website, together with a video showing the final settling of the sarcophagus in place, outlining what a major feat of engineering the project has been.

Bravo to all concerned.  A truly significant achievement.

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China continues to penetrate the otherwise impenetrable – Ukraine

November 22, 2016

In April 2016 the blog noted a(nother) significant investment by China in Odessa – and by extension Ukraine – “It has now become public knowledge that the Chinese company CNBM International (part of CNGC) has acquired eight solar panel plants (previously owned by Activ Solar behind which were the Kluyev brothers, both now wanted in Ukraine having done rather too well within the Yanukovych regime for all their business dealings to be entirely above board).

The two “Franko” solar farms in Starokozache , both “Danube” solar farms in Artsyz, the pair of “Lakeside” solar farms in Kilivy, and twin “Limanskaya” farms in Renne have certainly been acquired by CNBM.

It is quite likely that the remaining Activ Solar farms in Bolgrad have the same CNBM owners too, although as yet that cannot be confirmed.  Also unconfirmed, but of reasonable likelihood given the source, is a further solar farm being built by CNBM.  CNBM is after all, a renewable energy superpower across Asia and a global heavyweight in wind farm blades – not withstanding thin film solar cells.

(It will surely not be long, if it hasn’t quietly happened already, that parent company CNGC expands its own interests into Ukraine – cement and drywall production and raw material trading on truly global scales.)

Regardless, China via CNBM has just acquired in Odessa one of the top 50 solar power plants in the world, and seemingly intends to expand its solar energy production in Odessa even further.

(With regard to these solar power plants/farms in Odessa, more than 70% of the parts are actually manufactured in China by part of the CNGC industrial empire – thus no surprise that its subsidiary CNBM have now acquired the Activ Solar assets.  Indeed the Kluyev brothers Activ Solar loans were underwritten by these Chinese produced assets.)”

The entry concluding thus – “A reader may perhaps wonder, with Ukraine no longer the most receptive of markets for the Russian Federation – and therefore opportunities aplenty exist where they once did not – why it is China that is prepared to walk the business investment walk, whilst it is the Europeans with the DCFTA and reform financing leverage over Ukraine, that are still engaged in business talk.”

To be blunt the size of the aforementioned Chinese investments whilst certainly not small, are only part of more than $10 billion invested in Ukrainian clearly identifiable infrastructure sectors in recent years.  There will be no reader that is not aware that China invests where China feels it will benefit – whether or not that is also beneficial to the location/nation/business market it decides to invest in.

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The reason this Chinese investment was worthy of note (far in excess of the notice actually taken) was that it penetrated the otherwise impenetrable – the Ukrainian energy sector with energy generating assets located in Ukraine.

It appears that China has not been put off by the experience either – in fact it is going to expand its presence in the Ukrainian energy market further – yet again in solar energy.

Another $1 billion investment will begin to physically manifest by way of solar power plants in the 10 kilometer exclusion zone around Chernobyl.  Those solar power plants expected to generate 1 GWh per annum.

The investors this time being,  GCL System Integration Technology (part of the GCL Group) and the China National Complete Engineering Corp.

Well so be it.  With the Russian Federation far from welcome in the Ukrainian energy market and no noticeable committed long-term western entry thus far, China may as well capture the solar generation market – move over Rinat Akhmetov’s DTEK.

It would appear that the early bird once again catches the worm.  (There is certainly not much concern over it usually being the second mouse that gets the cheese – for China is selfish, it is far too big, and far too influential than any Ukrainian mouse trap that would kill the first mouse.)

It would be somewhat ironic that as Ukraine legislatively progresses toward meeting its EU 3rd Energy Package obligations if only China manages to penetrate the Ukrainian energy production market.

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Soviet ICBMs no more – Ukraine

October 30, 2016

For the past 20 years Ukraine has slowly – very slowly funding depending – been disposing of its inherited SS24 (PC22) intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The process is still not complete.

Thus far the Scientific Production Association (a State SOE) operating out of Pavlograd Chemical Plant has disposed of 54 third stages and 54 second stages of the missiles.

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that 54 solid fuel first stages remain.

The SPA states it is working on 50% funding, and as the dismantling is part US funded, a cynical reader will presume that the 50% funding it receives is the US funding and that which is historically “inconsistent” will be the Ukrainian funding.

According to the SPA, with full funding the process will be complete in 2 years and the Ukrainian SS24 ICBM Soviet legacy will finally have been dealt with per the obligations Ukraine entered into more than two decades ago.  (That said, there are now no longer any (even theoretically) functional SS24’s left with all 2nd and 3rd stages of the missiles disposed of.)

Thus working on the assumption that funding will remain “inconsistent”, and certainly a low priority as far as budgetary commitments for the current government are concerned, a prudent forecast for this project to finally see completion will be 5 years hence – 2021/22.

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Recycling Odessa? OHB Holdings

July 2, 2016

A few weeks ago an entry appeared relating to Odessa City Council’s new 5T municipal investment strategy – The 5 T’s being Transport, Trade, Tourism, Technology and Trust.

The entry questioned which definition of “Trust” was referred to – “Trust per the dictionary definition “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.”?  Odessa City Hall?  A City Hall that currently is seeing all of its long term organised criminality associates consolidate and indeed grow under its patronage?

Trust per the dictionary definition “an arrangement in which someone’s property or money is legally held or managed by someone else or by an organization (such as a bank) for usually a set period of time” – or perhaps better defined as “an arrangement in which someone’s property or money is illegally held or subjected to hostile/very hostile take over by someone else or by an organization (such as organised criminality closely associated with City Hall) usually after a set period of time”

Trust per the dictionary definition “an organisation that results from the creation of a trust“.  Something that those in political power in City Hall do not bother with, for why bother to separate their business interests from their political interests?  Odessa City Hall does not run on the concept of the business of politics – it runs on the concept of the politics of (vested) business (interests).

Trust perhaps per “Trust in Deeds” – the Mayor Trukhanov’s personal pocket political party?  Is it a sinister subliminal message to the would-be investor?

An investor should perhaps clarify, and perhaps even codify contractually, just which definition of “trust” the Odessa municipal  5T investment “strategy” actually refers to.   He who sups with the Devil should have a long spoon – and a very clear eyed view of who and what Devil be Odessa City Hall.”

We are perhaps about to discover which definition of “Trust” it will be – or perhaps it will ultimately be a combination of definitions.

Mayor Trukhanov and Mr Ho Kyong-go-Kim

Mayor Trukhanov and Mr Ho Kyong-go-Kim

Oriental Holdings Berhad (OHB Holdings) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Odessa City Council relating to what could be a $25 million investment to build and operate a waste treatment/recycling plant. OHB Holdings has already carried out a similar investment programme in Rivne, so Ukraine is not new and unknown territory.

(OHB Holdings are very active across Asia and beyond. Indeed it is not unknown to this blog, for the blog datcha is in Thailand where OHB are active.)

Well Bravo!

However it is a MoU – and not yet a signed and sealed contract. Thus it is not a done deal, albeit a very welcome step in the right direction for many reasons, ranging from FDI confidence to more effective environmental management.

Politically it will buy Mayor Trukhanov time as nefarious deals involving the Syrian billionaire owner of Kadar Group (a prominent and busy construction company in Odessa) and the Mayor/City Hall continues to drip into the public realm. Indeed Mayor Trukhanov has more reason to worry over this developing scandal than anything within the Panama Papers, his alleged holding of Russian passports, and his obvious organised crime links.

It remains to be seen what accommodation/collaboration can and/or will be reached with the existing vested interests that have grown very wealthy within the existing city waste contracts, for it remains unclear whether those vested interests have been approached and agreements reached prior to the signing of this MoU, or whether the MoU was signed pending such negotiations whereupon contracts will be signed – or not.

Nevertheless, prima facie this would appear to be positive news for Odessa, the local environment, Ukraine, and perhaps some short term political breathing space for Mayor Trukhanov.

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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).

Blimey!

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Westinghouse in Ukraine – Defective atomic parts as predicted

July 2, 2013

A long, long time ago – 1st of May 2010 to be precise – I wrote about serious suspicions that the Westinghouse fuel assemblies supplied to Ukrainian nuclear reactors was defective in  design.

Well I was right to do so.  Structural defects with the fuel assemblies have been identified resulting in mechanical damage – and Westinghouse are now scrambling to put matters right despite having previously pooh-poohed the concerns I mentioned on 1st May 2010.

The question is whether Westinghouse will be given the opportunity to do so – and at what political cost to Washington given the origins of the deal – or given their cavalier attitude in 2010, whether they are rightly and justifiably to be kicked out of Ukraine.

You would think Westinghouse would have a more responsible attitude in a nation that is home to Chernobyl – obviously not!

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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!

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