Mission possible: how to modernize Ukrainian cities

“While the cities worldwide implement the “smart city” technologies allowing to modernize many life support processes of the city I order to increase standards of living, development level of Ukrainian municipal infrastructure is at the level of the 60’s of XX century.

Without an exception, our cities are morally played out”, says Eugene Kun’, engineer, co-founder of Interproekt GmbH engineering company

  

City infrastructure (water and wastewater utilities (vodokanals), heating network) did not strategically modernize for decades.

The key problem of many of the Ukrainian cities is still an absence of sewage, wastewater treatment and potable water preparation systems. Technologies used for waste water treatment and potable water preparation utilized in Ukraine are not only out-of-date, but also rather dangerous for inhabitants in terms of the European standards.

Last year our engineers on their own initiative did more than several dozens of energy audits at housing and public utilities, primarily for water and wastewater utilities.

What did we face?

 

  1. Equipment does not correspond to the real needs of the cities.

Ukraine is a catastrophically energy-consuming country. In a city where several industrial enterprises operated in the Soviet era, they do not work anymore or have substantially reduced water consumption. Similarly, water consumption per capita has almost halved, and the trend towards lower consumption continues.

 The capacity of the equipment exceeds the necessary by 3-4 times. An example from life: a pump running at one of the vodokanals runs at 100 kVT with a real need of 15 kW, it turns out that 85 kVT is an overrun. The fact that the pump in vain warms the air and consumes electricity is pawned into the account for payment to the public.

The potential for reducing energy consumption for transporting water or heat varies from 30% to 50%. In the scale of a 100-thousand city is from 800 thousand to 1.3 million hryvnia, not taking into consideration reliability and environmental safety.

  

  1. There is no proper asset management.

Over the past 28 years, there has been no inventory of assets (not to be confused with fixed assets in accounting for depreciation) in most of vodokanals.

Accordingly, ignorance of where, what kind and in what condition are the pipes, meters, wells, combined with the lack of a plan for their replacement and depreciation leads to loss of water or heat during transportation to the consumer in average 50-60% throughout Ukraine. And this is another 1 million 300 thousand hryvnia for a 100-thousandth city.

Absence of capital investments and lack of operating expenses due to a shortage of funds in the tariff for restoration, led to the current state of the networks. As a result, their operation is becoming more expensive, and the quality of service is worse.

 

  1. Lack of professional and motivated employees in the housing and communal services sector.

A number of enterprises still have good engineers and workers who are interested in new technologies and equipment. But this is rather an exception to the rules. In most cases, you need to train staff from scratch, if you want to build effective work in the enterprise.

When our engineers come to the enterprises, they often find out that there are no network maps. Instead, there is an elderly worker from the Soviet era who has some knowledge of something, and who has a network map in his head.

 

  1. The sector of the housing and communal services functions in the regime of “extinguishing fires” and lack of a development strategy.

Most utilities do not have the means for modernization, at best they are enough to cover current repairs. In this situation, one can not expect that, for example, the quality of drinking water will improve in itself.

But the vodocanals are only one of the links in the chain that affects the comfort of the city. The entire infrastructure is very interconnected. For example, the quality of pipes affects the quality of roads. If you do not repair pipes, then every year you will asphalt roads.

Cities need a systematic “technical” audit. There are many ways to save money if you have the logic of infrastructure management. You are told that the infrastructure is worth a lot of money. Yes. But, in order to “reset” the city in terms of infrastructure, you can attract loans. Cheap money can be found in the EBRD or World Bank. They do not allocate funds for nothing, and very carefully check the quality of projects. To modernize the infrastructure, cities need not only the money. First of all, people are needed. People who have a vision of the systemic development of the city, people (or teams) who have the desire to translate such changes into life. Active people who live in Ukrainian cities and want to influence their development. Professionals with engineering competences.

Over the past decades, there has not been a single state institution that would systematically develop the housing and communal services sector, accumulate engineering knowledge, track global technologies in this segment, and raise the level of professionalism of engineers working in this industry. In recent years, this industry has begun to degrade at a serious pace. And it’s not just my opinion, it’s what you see around. Without a high-quality infrastructure, it is difficult for cities to plan development, attract investments, build a new economy, compete for the population, and to be attractive to the creative class.

 The task of city managers, in our opinion, lies in the organization of the process of analyzing of  the “technical” state of the city, finding solutions, organizing a team for modernization projects.

Unfortunately, to date, the level of development is such that there are much less of the engineers with modern knowledge of the “post-Soviet” technologies of urban infrastructure than the number of the water utilities in the country.

We must admit for ourselves that:

  • First of, we lost engineering competences in the sphere of housing and communal services. This industry, which employs almost 300,000 people, is obsolete and unattractive for young professionals;
  • Secondly, without creating an institution that will develop the industry, our cities will lose their attractiveness and viability even faster.

 My idea, which I suggested as a participant in the “New Leaders” project, is that it is necessary to create a Cities Modernization Center.

The tasks of such an institution are the following:

  1. To unite specialists capable of conducting an independent technical audit of the urban infrastructure.
  2. Create an expert base and “mobile engineering groups” capable of developing modernization projects.
  3. Ensure expert support for World Bank projects in Ukrainian cities, so that modernization projects are implemented under the public contro.
  4. To create training programs for specialists in the sphere of housing and communal services, first of all – workers of water utilities.
  5. To develop and promote business models such as ESCO-contracts, according to which a local business can become a participant and an investor in urban infrastructure.
  6. To combine the Ministry of Regional Development, Construction and Housing, international and Ukrainian experts, business representatives and interested communities.

 The future of your city is like the future of your home. Until you begin to be interested in the condition of the water canal, pipes, heat-conducting networks, you will not start creating a demand for a quality service, there will be no change. I have long been looking for people who, in my opinion, should have been responsible for the development of the strategy of housing and communal services – I did not find them.

But there are some professionals, business, civil servants who are able to think and act strategically. Who understand that in order to drink clean water from the tap in the horizon of 5-10 years, it is necessary to work on the project today.

 

Eugene Kun’, engineer, co-founder of the project and engineering company Interproekt GmbH, participant of the project “New Leaders”

 

Specially for UP

 

Source: https://www.pravda.com.ua/columns/2018/05/30/7181721/

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