Waste tips need flowers Julia Maklyuk for “24”, Kyiv, Ukraine 17 October 2008
Toxic vapour emissions, runoff, self- ignition and landslips are just some of the hazards posed by the waste tips which are a prominent part of the Donetsk landscape.
They could be turned into green parks yet no one is doing anything about it.
A quick survey of public opinion on the streets of Donetsk demonstrates that people consider waste tips dangerous for the environment and health. “The remains of coal burn and there is a lot of smoke. We do not know what chemicals there are in this smoke. But we are forced to breathe it”, they complain.
“Toxic vapour emissions, runoff, self-ignition and landslips are just some of the hazards posed by the waste tips which are a prominent part of the Donetsk landscape.”
“Waste tips could be turned into green parks yet no one is doing any- thing about it.”
Alex Kirby, a BBC journalist from the UK, warns that waste rock dumps should be treated with great caution. “We still can’t forget the tragedy in Aberfan, Wales in 1966. There, a huge waste dump slid down and hit the school building: 144 peo- ple died, including 116 children,” he recalls. When a dump burns it be- comes very fragile and the risk of landslides increases.
Foreign specialists note how this danger is menacing the residents of Donbass. “It is true that the waste tips of Ukraine are in a danger- ous and unstable state”, says Philip Peck, professor of the International Institute of Industrial Environmen- tal Economics (Sweden). “An inte- grated programme for waste dump rehabilitation, like the ones used in developed countries, should be im- plemented.”
The recipe for turning waste tips into green parks is as follows: the dump is levelled as much as possible, then covered with a layer of clay and soil, making sure there is a proper water-runoff system. Then trees which can grow under the particular conditions found on waste tips are planted, including acacia, wild rose and staff trees. In 10 years the toxic coal tip will turn into a green area that can become a park or even a reserve area.
However, Peck reminds us that it is not possible to plant the trees di- rectly on top of a coal dump, espe- cially if it is burning. “First of all, you need to study the composition of the waste rock, the microclimate and precipitation”, he points out. Sys- tematic information on these issues is not yet available.
The authorities are trying to make business leaders responsible for regeneration of the tips. For exam- ple the Anthracite company which recovers coal from the tips spends some of its profits on soil regenera- tion: this is part of its contract with
“Officials dream of turning the tips into blooming gardens just as much as the residents of Donetsk.”
local authorities. However, the com- pany regenerates only the quarry but not the tips themselves. One quarry has already been filled in with waste rock and covered with a layer of soil. The director of the company has promised to plant a forest on this territory in the future
Officials dream of turning the tips into blooming gardens just as much as, perhaps even more, than the residents of Donetsk. “More trees – more oxygen, less dust. And for our region it is extremely important”, says Sergei Tretyakov, the head of the State Agency of Environment Protection in Donetsk Oblast. “How- ever, state funding is not sufficient: only 18 million Ukrainian hryvnas [about US$3 to 4m] have been al- located for waste tip rehabilitation over the past 12 years”.