Czech NGO Arnika helped solving tens of environmental problems in Belarus

27.12.2017 - MINSK
Source: EcoHome

Tree-cutting, recycling and illegal landfill. Those are the main reasons the Belarusians seek out experts from non-governmental environmental organizations. To make it happen local NGO EcoHome with assistance of Czech organization Arnika launched the Green Line. The success of the consultation service surpassed expectations of its creators. However, people still don’t fully realize, that informing about a case is not the final step.

The phone eco-counselling was launched by EcoHome in autumn of 2016. After a year in operation, 636 requests have been send on environmental issues. Each and every one of them has been answered individually by our operators, informs Alyena Dubovik.

“People lack reliable informations on their rights, administrative competencies and optimal procedures,” says on the number of phone calls and continues: “At the same time, this shows real interest of the public in the topic of ecology. The phone rings much more often than we expected back in the days,” says Dubovik happily.

For the greenery. In July 2016, caller of Lida in Grodno Region informed on planned construction of vast residential area on the nearby lake shore. Many trees were to be cut down. Soon, a letter was send to regional executive committee. It turned out, the construction had not recieve neccesary permits and project was cancelled right after.

Garbage and greens

The key topic seem to be waste management and greenery protection. The Belarusians point out the non-professional treatment or cutting down trees, that regularly suffer from urban constructions. The Green Line also recorded many complaints on illegal landfills and insufficient number of public trash cans and recycling bins. Beside that, people wonder how to deal with different sorts of waste.

According to Marina Dubina from EcoHome, many of these cases are impossible to solve, since they are connected to each other and it is often too late to step in. “The lack of available cans leads to creating dumpsters affecting nearby environment, water, air and soil quality. Repeatedly, we witness inactivity of competent authorities,” Dubina explains.

"Forgotten" waste. In Orsha, there appeared some material left on the street long after previous recostruction. The concerned citizen than turned to city council as well as to the company. No reply has arrived, however, the garbage was gone the day after.

Based on monitoring of more than six hundreds of phone calls, experts have prepared a manual helping people to resolve specific issues without even need to contact the Green Line in the first place.

Tough task, especially in Belarus

Assistance in launching the service came from Arnika. This Czech environmental organization has been operating similar eco-counselling almost twenty years now.

Trees endangered again. "Trees in front of my house are being cut down!," a woman cried to Green Line operators in May. EcoHome turned to city and municipal representatives of Minsk, created a petition and organized number of meetings saving some of the trees previously designed to disappear.

“Availability of environment related information is far from acceptable in Belarus. Industrial regions suffer from serious pollution, in the cities similar problems to our own occur. Until a while ago, any kind of support of the locals in their struggle improving the environment was missing,” reports on the uneasy situation in Eastern Europe Martin Skalsky of Arnika. “We believe that supporting an active approach of the citizens helps awakening activism in general and therefore might defeat the lack of interest in civic topics together with dismal action of the representatives,” he follows.

The main goal of the eco-counselling is to push people towards being active on their own. “People get outraged by some specific problem in their neighbourhood, yet don’t want to act individually. They are afraid to take the responsibility,” Alyena Dubovik says with despair. “Everyone would love to see the evil disappear miraculously, but that’s not possible. However, in many cases people convinced themselves into action and made a huge difference. That might help others doing the same thing,” she concludes.

Be gone, woods! Near to agricultural village of Lyusina the whole forest was ment to be taken away. Majority of local residents suffer from extreme poverty and unemployment and rely on the nature pruducts later to sell them on markets. Surprisingly, the devastation was legal. Authorities of Brest and Gantsavich were approached together with the ministry of natural resources. Soon enough, BelSAT television channel got interested. Ministry of forestry then decided to preserve almost twenty thousands acres.


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