The first event of the Project “Civic Engagement in Environmental Monitoring and Improving Environmental Management at the Local Level” took place on 18 July, 2018 in Minsk.
The representatives of the European Union, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus, Republican Centre for Hydrometeorology, Radiation Control and Environmental Monitoring, Center for Environmental Solutions, Association “Education for Sustainable Development”, National Aarhus Center, National Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disabilities, National children’s health-improving centre “Zubryonok”, National children’s health-improving centre “Nadezhda”, Centre for Folk Arts and Crafts in Kopyś, Orša district, National Centre for Ecology and Local Studies, and other partners participated in the event.
The event became the starting point for a four-year activity of the team of experts and Project implementation partners.
The Project is designed for four years and is funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Republic of Belarus. The project aims at effective and inclusive environmental management at the local level, environmental risks monitoring, exchange with environmental information, in particular, in the field of ambient air quality. The budget of the Project is EUR 3,5 mln.
The country conducts regular monitoring of the state of the land, water, ozone layer, forests and wildlife, tectonic activity, changes in the parameters of the gravitational and geomagnetic fields, and so on. The experts also monitor human activity: dynamics of anthropogenic impact is visible, for example, as a result of radiation monitoring. The air is also influenced by anthropogenic factors. According to the World Health Organization, 9 out of 10 people breathe air with high concentration of pollutants. The harmful substances that get into the air can cause irreparable harm to health, and therefore this level of attention is paid to monitoring the quality of ambient air.
An increasing number of countries is beginning to take action on air pollution. Belarus has committed to a number of obligations, including under the Aarhus Convention . The Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Protection of Ambient Air” defines the legal and organizational framework for protection of ambient air against pollutant emissions, and also stipulates the rights and obligations of citizens, legal entities and state bodies in the field of air quality.
The initiators of the Project believe that environmental safety today is an urgent need, and taking care of the environment is a new level of self-awareness. The Project in Belarus plans to:
- Create and support in the regions of Belarus the “environmental monitoring clubs”, involve environmental civil society organizations, volunteers, public ecologists into voluntary monitoring of violations of environmental legislation with the assistance of the committees for natural resources and environmental protection.
- Involve civil society organizations in educational activities in the country’s “Green Schools” network, improve the existing and develop new school optional classes, including air quality monitoring clubs, as well as improve the skills of Belarusian teachers in the field of biodiversity, energy, water and waste management, air quality monitoring.
- Create 11 resource centers for “Green Schools” that will be equipped with sets of equipment for environmental monitoring, cooperation between “Green Schools” and local authorities authorized to conduct environmental monitoring, data collection and management.
The objectives of the Project also include adaptation of “Green” education for kindergartens, including institutions for children with disabilities, support for the activities of the Aarhus Centers that are the interactive platforms for environmental information collection and application, Contest of local initiatives aimed at rational use of natural resources, ecotourism , conservation of biological diversity, waste management, improving air quality, etc. (it is planned to implement up to 20 initiatives, 50-100 thousand EUR each). The Project also aims to organize a broad awareness raising campaign, including eco-forums.
 The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters was signed by 38 countries, including Belarus, in 1998.