Black sea,
green city?

On the shores of the ‘bluest of blue’ Black Sea stands the extraordinary city of Sevastopol, – my home. In its relatively short, 222 year, history, it has known its share of conflict and war, but has always been renowned for its resilience and patriotism. The days of great battles are long gone and its old chessboard grid of white streets and boulevards has made way for “Khrushchevite” slums. The sleepy navy base with tree lined avenues -where locals and tourists could once breathe clean air and bathe in the crystal clear waters of one of Sevastopol’s 40 bays -is no more.

The water in its bays, once so blue and clear, is no longer clean and – truth be told – often smells quite badly.

The deterioration of the marine environment which so affects this city has lead to a dramatic fall in the number of marine organisms at all levels – from bacteria to fish and dolphins. Oil spills, and the not inconsiderable level of pollution from the city itself, have helped turn the water murky and driven down oxygen levels. Things are so bad that even mussels, which are generally well adapted to living in dirty water, are suffering. Not to mention sturgeon and caviar!

And what about tourism? It is quite common for at least two public beaches to close for hygiene reasons at the height of the tourist season. The water on these beaches can only support dangerous bacteria and viruses, no other life.

Of course I am too young to teach those big people in their ministries how to do their jobs. To be completely honest, I’m not even sure how to tackle the problem. Maybe the removal of the Black Sea Fleet which is based in Sevastopol might be a start. This would also be a good thing from an aesthetic point of view: the view from Komsomol Square down to the South Bay would no longer be obscured by submarines and destroyers.

Also, the people of Sevastopol should do the right thing and pay their municipal taxes in full and on time. Maybe then pipes will be less likely to rust and burst, spilling their unsavoury contents all over our city and into the sea.

Some international efforts are under way to clean up our Black Sea, but it will be a long time before we see the results of these plans. In the meantime we can only hope that the preservation of truly green cities on the Black Sea coast will be an issue not only for biologists and ecologists.

Maybe if we care about these issues more, the world’s most talented artists, writers and scientists will again flock to the Crimean Riviera. People with open friendly faces will walk the white streets of Sevastopol, the city will once again drown in a sea of green and the water in the city’s bays will be as crystal clear as the air they breathe

Halyna Alomova – 17 years old, Ukraine.

PHOTOGRAPH: Efrem Lukatsky/AP

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Challenges and Opportunity | Bridging the Water Gap | Golden Gateway to Green Cities | The Spirit of “Mottai Nai” | Cities without Slums | People | Rapid Progress | At a glance: Greening Cities | Charging into the Future | Star profile: Tokiko Kato | The Female Factor | Unlocking People Energy | Think Local | High Achievements | Life at the Top | Books and products | Focus On Your World | Black Sea, Green City?

Complementary issues:
Issue on Tourism 1999
Issue on Seas, Oceans and Small Islands 2004