First International Youth Ecology Forum held in Slavutych

U.S.-Ukraine Foundation

SLAVUTYCH, Ukraine - On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster, the First International Youth Ecology Forum was held in the city of Slavutych on April 4-7.

Bringing together youth from across Ukraine, the goal of the forum was to attract youth to public life through ecological education, raise a generation that is ecologically aware and provide reliable information on the radioecological problems of the catastrophe.

The forum, a component of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation's heralded Youth Leadership Program, demonstrated that, by uniting their intellectual forces, youth and local government can take on the battle for an ecologically sound environment and healthy way of life.

Participants included students from state universities in Uzhhorod, Sevastopol, Kyiv, Chernihiv and Odesa, the Slavutych lyceum, members of the Kyiv Oblast student council and youth representatives from the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation's Community Partnerships Project (CPP) cities of Kamianets-Podilskyi, Kirovske, Komsomolsk, Korosten, Volodymyr-Volynskyi and Voznesensk.

The forum initiative was co-sponsored by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF), the Executive Committee of the Slavutych City Council - Division of Family and Youth, the State Specialized Enterprise Chornobyl Atomic Energy Station and the Kyiv Oblast State Administration - Department for Family and Youth.

In his introductory remarks at the forum's opening on April 5, Slavutych Mayor Volodymyr Udovychenko noted that we will probably never know the true consequences of the Chornobyl catastrophe. He pointed out that, unfortunately, our youth do not have enough information about it - thus stressing the importance of such events. He expressed his hope that this will become an annual forum.

Presentations were then given by experts on the following issues and problems related to the Chornobyl disaster:

The participants then broke up into sections to further discuss these topics. The USUF hosted a discussion titled "Youth and Local Government: Partners in Solving Ecological Problems in a Community."

The next day participants traveled by train to the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant inside the 30-kilometer exclusion zone. They were given an overview of the accident using a detailed model of the interior of reactor No. 4, told of current measures being taken to safeguard the reactor and, plans for building a new shelter, and were provided a description of life within the exclusion zone.

The trip continued two miles farther to the abandoned city of Prypiat, and then on to the city of Chornobyl, which still houses some temporary workers.

Back at the plant, the participants met with the head of the Information Department, who discussed the history of the plant and the reasons for its shutdown. He assured them that while everyone at the plant is working hard and doing their best to make it as safe as possible, unfortunately, Chornobyl will remain a problem for the next generation.

On their train ride back to Slavutych, participants were able to talk with workers heading home after their daily shifts.

At the close of the forum, participants unanimously adopted a resolution, before attending a commemorative performance by Slavutych youth and laying flowers at the town's memorial to Chornobyl liquidators.

Slavutych, a participant in the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation's Community Partnerships Project since 1997 - it is a partner city of Richland, Wash. - was built by people from across the Soviet Union in 1987-1989 to house displaced workers from the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Slavutych is Ukraine's youngest city, both historically and demographically; the average age of residents is 31. In 2005 it was ranked second among Ukrainian cities, after Kyiv, in terms of socioeconomic development.

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Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 30, 2006, No. 18, Vol. LXXIV

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