Lviv’s garbage pile-up reeks of pol­i­tics, mis­man­age­ment

Kyiv Post - - National - BY MARIYA KAPINOS [email protected]

This sum­mer the aroma from Lviv’s fa­mous cof­fee houses is mixed with a much less pleas­ant smell: garbage.

That’s be­cause for many months, Ukraine’s un­of­fi­cial west­ern cap­i­tal, which has a pop­u­la­tion of more than 700,000 people, has been drown­ing in waste after its only land­fill shut down.

While the city cen­ter, pop­u­lar with tourists, re­mains clean, res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods are dot­ted by piles of waste. In some places, the waste hasn’t been picked up for weeks be­cause there’s nowhere to take it to.

One such pile is close to the house of Li­ud­mila Bartko, a 48-year-old liv­ing on Kaste­livka Street in the north­west part of the city. The waste ex­udes a sick­en­ing stink, at­tract­ing rats and flies.

“When I was tak­ing out my garbage to­day I was ter­ri­fied,” Bartko told the Kyiv Post on June 28. “The trash is all black with flies, they’re ev­ery­where. And the sum­mer heat is upon us.”

Deadly fire

The city has had big prob­lems deal­ing with its waste since its only, mas­sively over­filled land­fill had to shut down after a deadly fire in May 2016. Three people were killed when a moun­tain­ous heap of trash col­lapsed dur­ing the fire.

Land­fills in other cities mostly re­fused to accept Lviv’s trash, with the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties saying they are over­filled too. As a re­sult, heaps of waste have been left on the streets for weeks, rot­ting and stink­ing.

How­ever, in late June util­ity ser­vices, work­ing around-the-clock, started to clean up piles of trash all over the city. The rea­son was that Lviv City Ad­min­is­tra­tion on June 23 voted to trans­fer con­trol over the dis­posal of do­mes­tic solid waste to Lviv Oblast State Ad­min­is­tra­tion. The land­fills in Lviv Oblast then fi­nally agreed to accept Lviv’s trash.

Po­lit­i­cal games

Many say that the real rea­son of the cri­sis was not over­filled dumps, but po­lit­i­cal games.

Lviv Mayor An­driy Sadovyi claims that the govern­ment has been or­der­ing other cities to refuse to take Lviv’s trash in or­der to put po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on him­self and his po­lit­i­cal party Samopomich, which has 26 seats in par­lia­ment and has de­clared it­self to be in op­po­si­tion to the govern­ment.

Govern­ment of­fi­cials, in their turn, ac­cuse the mayor, who has headed the city for 11 years, of long-run­ning mis­man­age­ment that has led to en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter.

Prime Min­is­ter Volodymyr Groys­man is the big­gest critic of Sadovyi, con­demn­ing him for mis­man­ag­ing the waste is­sue.

Dur­ing a Cabi­net of Min­is­ters meet­ing on June 14, Groys­man apol­o­gized to the people of Lviv “for the fact that for the last 11 years Sadovyi hasn’t done his job prop­erly.”

Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko dur­ing the meet­ing of Na­tional Se­cu­rity Council on March 15 also blamed Sadovyi.

“Sadovyi filled one of the most beau­ti­ful, Euro­pean cities of Ukraine with garbage,” the pres­i­dent said.

Bro­ken prom­ise

Lo­cal politi­cians also blame Sadovyi for the city’s waste prob­lems. One such critic is Lviv City Council mem­ber Ihor Zinkevych.

Zinkevych, who’s been mon­i­tor­ing the waste prob­lem closely, re­calls that Sadovyi promised to shut down the prob­lem­atic Hry­bovytske land­fill, the city’s only waste site, back in 2004 when he was launch­ing his first may­oral cam­paign. When he got elected in 2006, the prom­ise re­mained un­ful­filled.

The land­fill was only shut down 10 years later, in 2016, due to the deadly fire.

Ac­cord­ing to Sadovyi’s deputy, An­driy Moskalenko, Lviv City Ad­min­is­tra­tion has been work­ing on the waste prob­lem since 2009. They co­op­er­ated with the World Bank and Euro­pean In­vest­ment Bank to build a garbage re­cy­cling plant, which would be the first such plant in Ukraine.

But they have yet to get any­where with it, be­cause “the ini­tia­tive re­quired too much time and pa­per­work,” ac­cord­ing to Moskalenko.

Dirty pol­i­tics

Mean­while, Lviv con­tin­ued to use its only, al­ready over­filled land­fill. Moskalenko says the city au­thor­i­ties had no choice.

“If we closed the land­fill in 2008– 2009, we would have had to send Lviv’s garbage to dumps that were in as bad a con­di­tion as the one we in­tended to close,” says Moskalenko, adding that the ab­sence of a garbage re­cy­cling plant is a na­tional, not re­gional prob­lem.

Sadovyi still claims that the real rea­son for the city’s suf­fer­ing is dirty pol­i­tics. He in­sists that top Ukrainian of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Poroshenko and Groys­man, im­posed a “trash block­ade” on Lviv, pre­vent­ing the city from trans­port­ing its garbage else­where, to put pres­sure on Sadovyi’s Samopomich party.

Samopomich used to be in the rul­ing coali­tion with Poroshenko’s party and People’s Front party un­til quit­ting it in early 2016 and go­ing into op­po­si­tion, de­priv­ing the gov­ern­ing coali­tion of much needed votes. Samopomich law­mak­ers have since of­ten been among the tough­est crit­ics of the pres­i­dent and the govern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Sadovyi, he re­ceived 229 re­fusals in his 495 ap­peals to re­gional and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to al­low Lviv’s garbage in their land­fills. Copies of these re­fusals have been pub­lished on the Lviv City Council web­site.

Dam­aged rep­u­ta­tion

Lviv fi­nally be­gan to clean up its garbage on June 23 when util­ity ser­vices started to re­move the piles of trash all over the city.

By July 4, about 4,550 tons, or 70 per­cent of the ex­cess garbage had been trans­ferred to land­fills around Lviv re­gion.

The progress fol­lowed the rul­ing by the city au­thor­i­ties to hand the con­trol over do­mes­tic waste dis­posal to Lviv Oblast Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is sub­or­di­nate to the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties in Kyiv.

Oleh Synyutka, head of Lviv Oblast Ad­min­is­tra­tion, claims that lo­cal land­fills re­fused to accept Lviv’s garbage be­cause Sadovyi “didn’t com­mu­ni­cate prop­erly” with the au­thor­i­ties in other cities.

Synyutka ac­cuses Sadovyi of fail­ing to com­mu­ni­cate with lo­cal ac­tivists in the cities that he asked to accept the waste, so when the 10-ton garbage trucks ar­rived, the ac­tivists started block­ing en­trances to the dumps.

“People de­serve an ex­pla­na­tion for why they should accept Lviv’s garbage,” says Synyutka.

He says he per­son­ally talked to heads of city ad­min­is­tra­tions, ac­tivists, politi­cians in 10 dif­fer­ent cities to per­suade them to take in the garbage.

How­ever, Sadovyi man­aged to ne­go­ti­ate de­liv­ery of Lviv’s garbage with au­thor­i­ties of sev­eral cities, too. For in­stance, Novoy­a­vorivsk dump in Lviv Oblast ac­cepts 40 tons of do­mes­tic solid waste from Lviv daily.

Still, the garbage cri­sis has stained Sadovyi’s rep­u­ta­tion.

While last year Sadovyi polled third among po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the Rat­ing So­ci­ol­ogy Group, by this year he had dropped to eighth place.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Vi­taliy Bala says the sit­u­a­tion for Sadovyi un­folded “in a very ghastly way.” Be­fore the garbage cri­sis, Lviv’s mayor had had a much bet­ter chance in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion sched­uled for 2019, as his party pro­moted it­self as a new type of a modern po­lit­i­cal force.

“For Sadovyi and his party, the whole sit­u­a­tion is not a knock­out, but a very se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal knock­down,” Bala said.

Waste col­lec­tors pick up trash on a street in Lviv on June 27. The city has been strug­gling with waste over­flow after its only land­fill had to shut down in 2016. The garbage was of­ten left on the streets for many weeks. (Volodymyr Petrov)

Lviv Mayor An­driy Sadovyi gives an in­ter­view in Lviv on June 27. Sadovyi has taken a lot of crit­i­cism for the city’s garbage cri­sis. The mayor says his po­lit­i­cal foes cre­ated the prob­lem. (Courtesy of Lviv City Council)

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