Having seen Kyiv in 1966, general Charles de Gaulle said "I saw many parks and gardens in cities, but for the first time I’m in a city-garden", while English sportsman Lennox Lewis was impressed by the height of trees, growing above the roofs.
However, for the past years the natural world of Kyiv has changed and not for the better: many animals and plants have disappeared, once familiar places have become unrecognizable, central beaches are no longer safe...
ForUm has made a list of natural riches of the capital we should take special care of.
Great and mighty Dnipro is no longer a river, but a system of lakes with six large water reservoirs - Kiev, Kaniv, Kremenchuk, Dniprodzerzhynsk, Dnipro and Kakhovka, and hydroelectric stations on each of them. Ecologists beat the alarm that without proper cleaning and returning to its natural bed Dnipro will turn into swamps already in 350 years.
The ecologic passport of Kyiv of June 1, 2012, provided by the State environment protection department of Kyiv, says that hydrochemical state of the river has worsened for the past years and registers high concentration of chemicals in the water.
The main reason of water pollution is industrial waste being discharged by enterprises and absence of centralized filtering system. As a result, water blooms and fish die out.
According to chief engineer of the Bortbychy biological treatment plant Ihor Berezanya, the filtering system of the plant has not been upgraded since 1960 and its cleaning unit are worn-out.
In the past, such rivers as Rhein, Danube, Elbe, were called waste channels of Europe because of polluted waters. However, the UN special commission worked out a clean river program, including legislative regulations on punishment and encouragement of industrial enterprises, discharging waste into rivers, and the problem was solved. Many Ukrainian scientists also know how to prevent water pollution and regularly submit their works to the authorities. Let's hope our authorities will start paying closer attention to the problem and we will be able to enjoy the river for many other years.
Telbin is one of the biggest and most beautiful lakes of the capital. It is located on the territory of residential area Bereznyaki and traces its history to Middle Ages. In 1986 Ukrainian director Serhiy Lysenko shot a movie about "Kino" group, and a part of the movie was shot at the lake. Since then fans of Viktor Tsoi have been brining flowers to the place Tsoi was standing in the movie.
Now the lake faces two problems. The first one is shallowing. Communal enterprise "Pleso" told ForUm that the lake shallows because of clogging of underwater springs with silt and litter, beachgoers leave in the water. Every year the diving service has to clean the river bed from bottles, boxes, various industrial and construction waste.
The second problem is construction of multi-story buildings with parking lots and offices, started last year on the river bank. Numerous protest actions held against the construction drew attention of the state inspection on architecture and construction survey. After the consideration of the case in court, further construction in the boundaries of the lake was banned. Unfortunately, practice proves that similar bans do not stop people and there are always new takers, who want to occupy landscaped places near the water.
Belichanski forest is the last preserved forest of such big territory in Kyiv. There are two rivers, Lubka and Nyvka, running through it. The forest is populated by roe deer and foxes, numerous natatorial and semi-aquatic birds, century-old oaks and pine trees. In 1986 the forest stopped the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl plant and protected Kyiv from overall contamination.
For several years Kyiv has been fighting with the region for disputed territory, including Belichanski forest adjacent to Kotsubynske village with the area of 100 ha and four thousand ha for construction.
In 2008, Kotsubynske village council decided to expend its territory and simply took 100 ha of the forest for construction. After that the village council appealed to the Kyiv council and asked for another 3500 ha. Since then Kyiv and Kotsubynske village have been fighting for the territory. Meanwhile, the forest suffers from mass extraction of timber.
To preserve the forests, some activists created "Public committee on protection of Belichanski forest" and proved and that forest devastation means destruction of ecological buffer zone, which keeps eliminating consequences of Chernobyl disaster and is a strategic shield against similar disasters.
On June 21, 2012 the Kyiv Court of Appeal cancelled the decision of the Kotsubynske village council and included 6462.6 ha of the forest into the territory of "Holoseyevski" natural park. However, to protect the whole forest from devastation the authorities should provide it with the status of natural national park.
The city of Kyiv is graced with copious numbers of chestnut trees, which line many of its streets and provide shade in summer, visual and olfactory delight at the time of vernal blossoming, and golden display in autumn in Kyiv’s numerous parks.
However, the tree never belonged to Kyiv, but was imported from Balkans, specially for the visit of Russian Emperor Nicholas I.
The city legend has it that in the nineteen-thirties the Russian Emperor Nicholas I paid a royal visit to Kyiv. Riding along the boulevard which was adorned with young horse chestnuts, His Majesty was displeased by the “scanty appearance of the wispy trees” and ordered to have them removed and “stately poplars planted instead.”
Kyiv residents, though, picked up the abandoned trees and planted them in their gardens. According to botanist Serhiy Ivchenko, those trees were the ancestors of the modern Kyiv chestnuts.
According to the official data, there are about two million chestnut trees in Kyiv. The oldest horse chestnut tree in Kyiv is to be seen in the territory of Kytayivsky Monastery. This tree is believed to be planted by metropolitan Petr Mohyla 350 years ago.
Nowadays, skeptics say that Kyiv is no longer "the green capital of Europe" and provide 30-year-old photos of streets, full of chestnuts, to compare with current state of affairs. And indeed, the trees are gone.
According to director of the Kyiv ecological and cultural center Volodymyr Boreiko, we have chosen a wrong symbol for the city. First of all, our climate does not fit Balkan trees and makes them sick. Secondly, the trees suffer from emissions and sewage systems. Moreover, soil salinization after winter sanding and salting of roads hurts the trees' roots and reduces their lifetime.
However, the trees feel comfortable in parks, far from highways and cars, and walking in Fomin's botanic garden, we still can enjoy these beautiful chestnut trees, some of which are over 150 years old.
In a spring holiday fever thousands of flowers become target number and snowdrops are among them, though they are considered rare and therefore illegal to pick and sell. However, smuggling flowers is a profitable business. Each year up to five million of snowdrops are stolen from the wild.
Mass blossom of snowdrops used to be seen in Holoseyevski Park, but over several years, people have devastated the whole plantation.
Ecologist Volodymyr Boreiko says that the city guidebook of the beginning of XX century read that snowdrops grew everywhere in Kyiv. Nowadays, the flowers "moved" 100 km far from the capital. To preserve snowdrops in our forests people should at least stop buying them from old women near metro, but to try to cultivate them at home - the flower does not need much care.
Squirrel is one of the prettiest inhabitants of our green zones. Squirrels can be seen in the Park of Kyiv Technical University, Gryshko's National Botanic Park, Hydropark, Holoseyevski forest. Many people come to see squirrels and bring children, who like to hand feed them.
Moreover, squirrels help the nature to reproduce. Storing nuts and acorns for winter, the animals bury them, and some of forgotten "treasures" sprout and grow into new trees.
However, the population of squirrels in the city has decreased almost twice. According to ecologist Volodymyr Boreiko, the main reason of depopulation is destruction of squirrels' habitat - old trees with hollows, where animals settle shelters and procreate. Young trees do not have hollows, and even if squirrels have enough food for winter, without hollows in tree trucks they have no place to settle.
Boreiko says that Kyiv authorities should either impose ban on felling hollow trees or build special nest boxes. Moreover, those who care about the fate of squirrels can feed them with nuts in parks or build a feeder at the summerhouse.
Owls are aboriginal inhabitant of Kyiv. There are more 100 pairs of owls living in the capital. Eagle owls, however, have almost disappeared, but grey owls still can be heard at night in Holoseyevski Park, Baikovo cemetery, Repyakhov Yar and Batyeva hill.
Owls are extremely useful for forestry, as they exterminate small rodents. The population of owls decreases mainly because of poaching, devastation of nests and felling of hollow trees. The city has become the shelter for this species, as nobody shoots them here and owls can always hunt city sparrows.
The most effective method to preserve and protect the night birds is to build artificial winter nesting places for them.
Bats are one of the most ancient creatures ever lived on Earth. They appeared about 50 million years ago and have not changed much since then. There 26 bat species registered in Ukraine and all of them are protected by law.
Almost three-fourths of the world's bats are insect eaters. Bats consume both aerial and ground-dwelling insects. Each bat is typically able to consume one-third of its body weight in insects each night, and several hundred insects in a few hours. This means a group of one thousand bats could eat four tons of insects each year. If bats were to become extinct, it has been calculated that the insect population would reach an alarmingly high number.
In the capital bats usually live in old buildings, basements and hollows of trees. Unfortunately, not so many old buildings have remained, and bats cannot settle in new constructions. However, the major reason of bat's depopulation is felling of hollow trees or use of chemicals for treatment of plants. Bats simply die having eaten poisoned insects.
The Kyiv Zoo has a rehabilitation center for bats, where people can bring hurt animals. And if a bat accidently got into your house, do not beat it with a towel or broom. Try to cover it with big box and let it out in the street.
Butterflies are also one of the most ancient species on Earth. Their main purpose is cross-fertilization of plants. Moreover, they are a part of the food chain and serve as food for various animals.
These beautiful creatures are almost extinct in Kyiv. Swallowtails and machaons used to live on Trukhanov Island, but now only tortoise and brimstone butterflies remained. No butterflies can be seen in the center of the capital - chemical treatment of plants and mowing of lawns do not provide comfortable environment for living.
To preserve the species it is needed to preserve their natural landscape, to protect swamps and to stop felling of trees. If you see a bright beauty flying by do not hurry to catch it and place under a glass - enjoy it in its natural habitat.
It is a human nature to change things as we see fit. Seeing something beautiful, people want to have it for themselves, and often do not think that their actions can ruin the balance of nature. If we keep treating the nature carelessly and disrespectfully, our children will know about squirrels only from Internet pictures, and a bench near 30-storied building will remain the only resting place for tired Kyiv residents. However, it is not too late to learn to enjoy the nature as it is, to take care of it and finally find peace in coexistence.
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