Non-governmental Organisations Major Group - Second World Water Forum

Background Paper for the workshop 'HAZARDS'


Dr. Vyacheslav Magmedov, Senior Advisor, Ph.D., Associated Prof., AIH P.HG., ECOTE, Kyiv, Ukraine

Dr. Michael BABAYEV, Executive Manager, Ph.D., ECOTE, Kharkiv, Ukraine

Deterioration of health conditions of local population today in Donbass region is, in many cases, resulted by poor quality of drinking water particularly in industrially developed districts. Due to intensive mining and large number of heavy industry enterprises the Donbass region is the most contaminated part of Ukraine and maybe one of the most contaminated region in the world. One of the main environmental problems here is groundwater contamination. For example, the threat to groundwater is coming not only from the contaminated soils but also from numerous dumpsites for industrial and domestic waste and from the mining industry. The problems arising from mining are particularly very complex and difficult in that region. Now, when the deep laying and heavily contaminated groundwater is moving upwards due to the mines closure, there is a risk that large areas will be flooded and drinking water wells will be effected by contamination.

An assessment of the threat from different sources of contamination to the water resources in the east and central part of Donbass region (Fig.1) was undertaken whilst several research projects implementation in years 1996 - 1999. In addition to environmental research some sociological investigation have been carried out aiming to find correlation between the state of environment and public health.

Main Industrial Sources of Groundwater Contamination.

1. Untreated or inefficiently treated wastewater and coal mine water

In Donetsk and Lugansk Oblast of Donbass region total input of insufficiently treated wastewater into pollution of inland water bodies amounted annually to 2,700 Million m3 (3, 4).

2. Slurry pounds and wastewater lagoons.

Donbass is a large industrial region with very well developed mining, metallurgical, chemical, pipe rolling and machine-building industry. The use of fresh water per unit of industrial production in Ukraine exceed the same norm in France 2.5 times, in Germany 4.3 times, in the UK and Sweden 4.2 times (6).

3. Landfills and industrial solid waste disposals.

Most of them have been built without any plans and compliance with the essential standards of ecological safety. The area occupied by landfills and waste deposit sites only Donetsk Oblast is considered as 1% of the territory according to official information (3), and may be 50% exceed that figure if uncontrolled dumping is accounted for.

4. Industrial Pipelines, Oil and Petrol Storage Reservoirs, Military Sites.

The typical example of groundwater contamination by petrol in described region could be Nikitovka in Lugansk Oblast: leakage from petrol storage reservoir affected water quality in he small river and sources of portable waters supply for two nearest settlements of summer houses (8)

Agricultural Sources of Groundwater Contamination.

1. Livestock Raising Complexes and Poultry Plants.

General situation is aggravated due to the low level of ecological culture of livestock keeping in the households adjoining the farm where the sites for manure storage as a rule located close to the drinking water supply sources.

2. Irrigation Tracts and Irrigated Areas

Due to intensive nitrate's migration in most plots next to irrigated lands during the vegetation period their content in groundwater increased to 2-8 times than maximum allowable concentration (MAC).

3. Mineral and Organic Fertilisers and Pesticide Storage Sites

In both Oblast there were some events of fish kill caused by flagrant violations of the rules for fertiliser and pesticide storage. Only in Donetsk Oblast near 500 tones of unused pesticide is subject urgent neutralisation (3).

4. Unseweraged Settlements

An important source of groundwater pollution is unseweraged settlements. In the rural areas of Ukraine more than 97% of settlements has no canalisation and wastewater treatment stations (1).

In the river valleys and ravines where polluted groundwater horizons are been discharged, nitrates concentration can be 10 - 25 times higher then MAC.

The problem became more important especially last decade, when the villages of co-operative garden's holder became very spread out.

As a rule, these households were builds without any engineering - geological or hydrogeological assessment.

The state of environment, public health and public awareness.

The negative ecological situation in the region does negatively effect the public health. In spite of the decrease in number of professional disease in coal mining industry, the leading industry in the region, the number of general illness between citizens of Donetsk, Krasnoarmiysk, Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, Shahtarsk and some other cities and towns has tendency to be increased.

Apart of that only according to official information in the leading brunches of machinery building industry in Donetsk Oblast, the number of cases of registered disease during last years have been increased at list three times (2).

The correlation between the state of environment and life expectancy can be clearly identified from the case Donetsk Metallurgical Plant. The living premises are situated at the distance 0.1 - 0.4 km from the damping site. There are places where life expectancy is lesser than overage for 5 - 10 years, in some places it is lower for 15 - 20 years. The negative effect is traced at the distance 1 - 1.3 km from damping site.

At the same time due to the low level of public awareness and deterioration of economical situation, local people have not recognized environmental safety as priority one problem in the region. The sociological investigation undertaken by our team in Lugansk Oblast shows those environmental safety posses only 4th place among other social - economical problems (Table 1)

Table 1 - Issue identified as a problem by the respondents %

Deterioration of economical situation and personal welfare      83.4

Increase of social vulnerability of population                            43.6

Loss of life goal orientation                                                     19.0

Environmental safety                                                               16.3

Deterioration of criminal situation                                            12.4

Loss of trust to improve habitation conditions                           2.4

Increase of alcohol and drug consumption                                1.7

Others                                                                                     1.3

As it can be seen from Table 2, most of people still are having their information from mass media and personal communications. The role of non-governmental organizations and "green movements" in environmental data dissemination was not practically mentioned.

Table 2. Source of information                                          %

Regional TV and radio programs, newspapers                  47.3

Own observations                                                       35.4

National TV and radio programs, newspapers                 28.8

Personal communications with friends, colleagues and neighborhood 26.4

Local administration                                                   15.1

Have not been using any source of information             1.1

The low level of public familiarization with environmental problems was particularly obvious whilst personal communications particularly in rural areas.

It should be clearly stated, that ecological and social situation in Donbass region has been negatively effected by deterioration in system of groundwater quality monitoring, especially in the countryside. There is practically absent system of groundwater quality monitoring of portable water supply in private sector on all stages of their development, starting from construction and finishing with exploration. Both the Ministries of Health and former Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety of Ukraine have been paying practically zero attention to this problem.

As a result of this attitude to the problem of portable water supply from private water intake systems in the countryside in most cases there is no data available on water quality and statistics on water related disease.
Correspondingly, no measures, national or regional programmes have been implemented or been planed to be implemented in the nearest future in countryside to tackle this problem.


It is obvious now that shortage of good quality drinking water is a limiting factor for the development of the country and particularly for such industrialized territories and having developed agricultural production like Donbass region.

The present change of the political and economical situation in Ukraine requires an adjustment of the national policies for water resources protection and supply, introduction of new type of environmental management, including more effective public participation in National Environment Action Plan (NEAP) and Local Environment Action Plan (LEAP) process. 

A more complex assessment of water resources, including an assessment of changes in environment and its impact on public health, is required.

Special attention has to be paid to minimization of the influence of particular contamination sources like damping site and landfills, diffuse source of pollution, both industrial and agricultural origin.

Basing on above the next essential steps in improvement of the potable water supply in Ukraine and more than ever in Donbass region should be undertaken:
strengthening the financial, institutional, scientific, technical, informational and educational basis for surface and ground water protection from pollution and depletion at the national and regional level;
preparation of a national program for surface and ground water protection in the areas of landfills and waste deposit sites. This program must be elaborated in the framework of a National Environment Action Plan (NEAP) with active participation of NGO and with health component;
preparation of special program for ground water protection in the Donbass region which has many coal mines under closing program;
further development of scientific research dealing with the optimisation of surface and ground water quality monitoring systems, including biomonitoring;
urgent action for conservation, protection and recovery of ground water used for portable water supply;
further development and implementation of ecologically friendly technologies for wastewater treatment such as constructed wetlands and ground water rehabilitation.
encouragement a shift from an administrative-command system of planning and implementation of environmental program to a consultative one based on realistic and sensitive approach to the co-operation with local people. This approach has to consider the feedback and real needs of population through public consultations and NGO participation in LEAP process.
enforcement of non-governmental sources of environmental information via national and international programs and projects.


The authors are grateful to those colleagues from the Ukrainian Scientific Research Institute of Ecological Problem and Kharkiv State University who contribute to the field investigations.
They are also thankful to Research Support Scheme (RSS) for financial support of the project Groundwater Impact Assessment in Rural Areas of North - Eastern Part of Ukraine, which data been used in presentation.
They acknowledge the assistance provided by the Organising Committee of the Second World Water Conference that made it possible to present this manuscript.