Free Svydovets Reserve in Ukraine!

Of course one of the recent sad top news from Ukraine is the destruction of Kakhovka hydroenergetic power station. Beside risk to Zaportizhhya Nuclear Power Plant, this destruction has also a lot of other long-term impacts on the environment. Therefore researchers and scientists are continuing investigating them.

But there is also good news from Ukraine! As we were informed, finally Ministry of Environmental protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine (hereafter-Ukrainian Environmental Ministry) approved an appeal of creation of the Reserve “Free Svydovets” in Ukrainian Carpathians. The idea was supported by more than 25 000 Ukrainians, who had signed the petition to the President of Ukraine “Protect the wild nature of Svydovets!”. And the President Zelenskyy has already reacted on it.

What is Svydovets?

Svydovets is the mountain range, located in the Western Ukraine, close to Romania.

It is home to at least 93 endangered species of Red Data book of Ukraine (2009) including the European brown bear and the Eurasian lynx. More than half of Ukraine’s glacial lakes are located on this mountain range. It also contains old-growth and virgin forests, protection of which is one the Ukraine´s priorities. The massif ensures the hydrological regime of the region and contains the source of the international Tysa river, the main tributary of the Danube river.

Threats to Svydovets

Despite military actions, climate change impacts and avalanche risks, there was a plan to build a huge recreational complex on Svydovets territory. Furthermore, 2 other complexes are planned for building. These 3 new planned complexes are located next to each other and are planned to be connected with the existing Bukovel resort. And this means, that that 65,000 people can be at once in this still natural area! The figure is just unbelievable!

Alternative-low impact tourism

Of course, authorities, businessmen and local inhabitants are interested in receiving economic benefits from Svydovets. But there is an alternative to huge recreational complexes, which include ski resorts.

Since an extensive international campaign of Free Svydovets and its supporters, many people from different countries became aware of this beautiful area in Ukrainian Carpathians. They were willing to visit this area and are interested particularly in low impact tourism. Recently this visitors’ audience can be increased by the temporary displaced people from other regions of Ukraine, veterans of the war. This type of tourism brings a lot of benefits to locals. For example, visitors are staying in local households, consume local food, and using services of local guides.

In addition, a lot of efforts should be put into education of visitors regarding proper behaviour in the nature. One of such tools is the Respect Nature concept, developed by the European Wilderness Society and actively implemented particularly by our Ukrainian partners, including Carpathian Biosphere Reserve.

The fight is not over!

Of course the recent decision of the Ukrainian Environmental Ministry regarding “Free Svyodvets“ reserve doesn´t guarantee the entire protection of the area. Now for the creation of the Reserve it is necessary to obtain approvals from the State Enterprise “Forests of Ukraine” and local village councils. This process will be led by the Transcarpathian Regional Military Administration. But it is very important that the Ukrainian Environmental Ministry continues actively participate in the process.

European Wilderness Society´s support

European Wilderness Society supports the process of Svydovets protection since 2017. Our team contributed to the awareness raising and Svydovets Case report preparation, protection in the courts, Appeals to the Environmental Ministry of Ukraine, Carpathian Convention and even International Olympic Committee, participated in different meetings and even visits to Svydovets.

Now, when the Western Ukraine remains relatively safe, it is even more important to save its valuable nature for the post-war renewal of the whole Ukraine.

Iryna Shchoka,
European Wilderness Society

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