"Drinking Water of Ukraine": why this problem needs adequate financing
Oleh Bondarenko, the Chair of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Environmental Policy and Nature Management
There is no need to convince anyone of the importance of good quality and affordable water. It provides health, longevity, hygiene, and comfort for all.
It is also obvious that the situation of potable water in Ukraine should be improved - we receive confirmation of this fact every day. For example: will many urban residents risk drinking tap water? Unfortunately not everyone has the access even to such a water.
Ensuring the quality and safety of water and its availability are our two main priorities. The National Targeted Social Program "Drinking Water of Ukraine" for 2022-2026 is addresses the problem. On November 18, the Parliament adopted the government draft law 5723 on first reading, and now we are preparing second reading of it in Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
I’d like to provide some facts and figures to better understand the challenges facing the implementation of the program.
In Ukraine, 99% of cities, 90% of urban-type settlements, and 30% of rural settlements are provided with a centralised water supply. Only 69% of the population has access to it, while only 48% have an opportunity to use a sewage system. At the same time, the existing infrastructure, built in 1950-70, is obsolete and largely worn out - more than 30% of water mains, sewage networks, and pumping units are in disrepair. The biggest problem is that almost 270,000 people in nine regions of Ukraine still receive imported water on schedule. And this takes place in a European country in the 21st century!
We must admit that the state has thus far failed to solve the problem efficiently. The previous program, "Drinking Water of Ukraine" for 2011-2020, address the issue. In fact, its implementation took place only between 2011-12 and 2018. It is not surprising that it failed to achieve its targets, fulfilling only 13% of its intended goals. We must take this experience into account when implementing new plans. The Government is also aware of the need to change the current situation and the Verkhovna Rada also shows significant support for the program: 328 Members of the Parliament supported the bill in the first reading.
The Program "Drinking Water of Ukraine for 2022–2026” envisages the construction, reconstruction, and overhaul of water supply and sewage networks, drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, the creation and proper equipping of drinking water and wastewater quality control laboratories. More than 1,700 regional infrastructure projects are planned to be implemented during these five years. The program has all the necessary elements to be part of the "Great Construction".
For the effective implementation of the program we need two things: first - the regions must have plans for the necessary infrastructure improvements and the project design documentation, that is, to have the WHAT to finance; second - there should be MEANS to finance the projects.
The lack of adequate financing in the past has already led to the above-mentioned failure of the previous program. The current five-year plan in the draft law allocates a budget of about 17 billion hryvnias.
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the State Budget of Ukraine for 2022, which already provides financing for the national target social program "Drinking Water of Ukraine", granting the amount of one billion hryvnias next year. Considering the state of the water supply and sewage system in the country, this amount is not enough for significant changes, but gives the opportunity to start financing of several facilities across the country. The joint effort, fast and coordinated work of the state authorities and communities on the implementation of the program can be a guarantee of additional funding in 2022 and the allocation of more funds in the budgets of the coming years.
The program foresees that within five years the share of the population with access to centralised drainage will increase to 53%, and centralised water supply will cover 70% of people. Importantly, about 10% of the program budget is planned to be directed to the east of the country, which has suffered from Russian aggression and requires significant investments in infrastructure.
I would like to emphasise another important advantage of the proper implementation of the program. The more people have quality drinking water at home, the more we will give up bottled water, mostly packaged in plastic bottles. The rejection of disposable plastic is one of the important areas of our struggle for a clean environment. In particular, the Parliament is currently considering bill №6077, which prohibits the import and circulation in Ukraine of certain types of disposable plastics. The proposed provisions are fully in line with the practice of the European Union.
The "Drinking Water of Ukraine" program is necessary even under the conditions of the outdated legal framework, according to which the enterprises of centralised water supply and sewage currently operate. On the other hand, the modernisation of infrastructure should make the implementation of the strategic tasks contained in the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. First of all, it is the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of Directive 98/83/EU on the quality of water intended for human consumption and Directive 91/271/ EEC concerning urban waste-water treatment, with all changes to them.
In the European Union member states in the vast majority of cases you can safely drink tap water. This is the result of proper infrastructure support and high legal standards, which are strictly adhered to. Let's achieve such a result in Ukraine through the implementation of the program "Drinking Water of Ukraine"!