SEVIRA at EURegionWeek

Regional and cross-border cooperation strengthens ties between people from different countries. This is a good opportunity to get to know each other and make a common cause. When it comes to environmental protection, cooperation is essential as water or air pollution knows no boarders. One of the sessions at the EURegionWeek was devoted to citizens’ involvement in building environmentally friendly cross-border regions. SEVIRA project team was invited to share experience. Project coordinator on environmental education at the Russian side Anna Kryukova shares her impression of the session:

“Experts from different countries, even outside the EU, attended the meeting. All of us are engaged in common business and exchange of experience on public involvement was useful for me personally and for participants with whom I had a chance to talk. At the beginning of the session, my colleague from Turkey and I presented the methods we’re working with. There are only two countries in SEVIRA, and their project involves Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Georgia. The project’s called Zero Waste Strategy for Good Environmental Status (ZEWSGES) and its aim is to protect the Black Sea from marine litter. Colleagues clean up the beaches and attract local fishermen to elimination of marine networks. ZEWSGES project created their own online game for educational purposes.

In SEVIRA project, we organize trainings for teachers to demonstrate them simple methods of measuring water quality. Having mastered our methodology and tools, teachers can use new approaches with their students. Then we consolidate the knowledge through field trips for schoolchildren where we measure nitrate and oxygen content in the water, turbidity, and other chemical and biological indicators. Friends of the Baltic, Russian partners of SEVIRA project, also investigated the content of microplastics in the water during last trips. We use the methodology of international Coalition Clean Baltic that is called "River Watch".

Kids love conducting their own experiments. When a child comes home, he or she talks about the experience and new knowledge about environmentally-friendly behavior. The habits of the whole family can be changed in a positive way!

Also, we initiated a series of surveys to find out the local residents’ attitude towards water quality in Seleznevka, Sestra, and Virojoki rivers and understand what people are ready to do personally to prevent pollution of natural waters. When all the results are ready, we will compare the data for Russia and Finland. It is very interesting to find out the similarities and differences in the approaches of the local residents. It seems to me that the exchange of experiences is a strong part of SEVIRA project. We do not just hold events independently of each other but constantly compare the results and organize joint actions. Next year, students from Finland will come to Russia and we will arrange joint field trips. This is important both for learning process and reversing stereotypes about each other. Rosario Sapienza, head of the Joint Technical Secretariat of the programme ENI CBC Italy-Tunisia, told me that many teams are doing parallel actions at their countries without direct interaction. Our project is truly cross-border thanks to joint activities. It inspires me to new feats. Together we can find an opportunity to improve the ecological status of transboundary water bodies.

Of course, there are some difficulties. For example, during the discussion one of our colleagues mentioned that it can be difficult to measure the success of the project. We can’t tell in advance for how long all achievements will last. There is a risk of misinterpreting quantitative indicators, for instance, the volume of garbage collected. A good example: if the amount of waste collected during the cleaning increased, sometimes it is interpreted as a good sign, they say that more people are involved in the process. In fact, if there’s more waste or its quantity stays the same, it is bad. The campaign was fruitless.

At the same time, there are many tools for strengthening local communities. Storytelling is a good one. Understandable examples can encourage person to change the usual way of life. Think globally, act locally – all participants of the session agreed with this statement. Active work with local communities is one of the most important issues in cross-border projects. This is what we are developing”.