Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine and the 7th largest Ukrainian city overall with 729,429 residents, is often praised for its culture and a booming information technology sector. But while these facets are rightly highlighted, another — an active civil society — is just as impressive. In a country still hampered by pockets of civic acrimony, the local response to a growing ecological disaster in the region reiterates the role civil society will play in Ukraine’s future development.
Located 6.4 miles north of Lviv, the landfill site near the small village of Hrybovychi have been the focus of local activists and regional politicians, alike. One of the largest landfills in Europe, the site was originally scheduled to close in 2006 but remained open after local authorities could not find an alternative landfill. Relocation efforts were discussed again nearing the end of 2013 only to be delayed by the Euromaidan protests that began in November 2013.
In the past year, civic activists in Lviv have tried to bring attention to the potential consequences of neglecting Hrybovychi and similar areas. On 01 JUL 15, protesters blocked roads leading to Hrybovychi to prevent garbage dump trucks from entering landfill sites. Following a reported leak of toxic tar into a local river on 12 JAN 16, protesters blocked the entrance to the landfill site near Hrybovychi. Local media, whether through investigative reports by journalists or news coverage by popular Lviv-based channels, has also helped raise public awareness of the issue.
Lviv’s civil society has shown itself willing to acknowledge long-term environmental issues facing the area. Civic pride in Lviv, which rankest highest in Ukraine, is further boosted through a free press unafraid to expose government inaction. While Ukraine struggles to overcome economic, political, and societal issues, Lviv remains a positive example of civic engagement and responsibility.