Ms Michalek-Götz, Lviv has been in the midst of war for almost six weeks. Please tell us briefly what you had agreed with your partner organisations up until the war broke out, how the work went there, and what has been planned and implemented so far.
Kristin Michalek-Götz: We started active project work in January 2021. Due to the pandemic, we chose to communicate chiefly online. In the first six months, it was primarily a matter of getting to know each other and sorting out the final formalities. Once we had completed these first steps, four working groups were formed and organised in line with Lviv's needs, which we had identified. Our first joint focus was on cost-covering tariffs. Our second focus was on plant and process optimisation, which we further subdivided into water supply and asset management. The third focus was needs-based human resources management. Stadtentwässerung Dresden has the lead role in Germany. We also have two other partners: Berliner Wasserbetriebe and Stadtentwässerungsbetriebe Köln.
The pandemic made our work a bit more difficult. That's why it was a bit bumpy at the beginning. Nonetheless it was a very good exchange. It comprised above all a first comprehensive baseline analysis for each working group. For example, the groups determined the staff structure (age, hierarchy, qualification level), as well as the plant structure and location at the sewage treatment plant.
In September 2021, Mr Lenk, our project manager for the utility partnership, and I had the opportunity to travel to Lviv for three days. There we were able to participate in the Eco Forum, among other things. This is a large plenum and forum for Ukrainian water associations. It was three intensive days in which we were able to gain very profound insights within a few hours – in direct dialogue with our Ukrainian colleagues. This all took place during a guided tour of the administration building, the customer centre and the wastewater treatment plant and, of course, at the Eco Forum. It was very exciting and intensive. We came back with these impressions, talked to our working groups and showed them some visuals. The level of motivation has clearly increased. There were also various other workshops. Some of these were organised by the Service Agency. Others were organised internally by our colleagues, who gave expert presentations. So we worked very intensively and well together.
In November 2021, we had the opportunity to expand our partnership to include two more water companies from the cities of Ternopil and Nadvirna, as well as the Ukrovodokanalekologiya water utility association. The challenges for water utilities in Ukraine are thematically very similar. We were raring to go, and our colleagues from Ternopil, Nadvirna and Ukrovodokanalekologiya had already been involved in some of our workshops. The first agreements had already been reached. And then came the war.
What is the situation now? What have you heard from these three municipalities?
Kristin Michalek-Götz: The project activities were initially reduced to a minimum. First we wanted to give our colleagues space to deal with these frightening, uncertain changes themselves. But we quickly received requests for technical equipment and support. We remain in close touch with three contacts. They also tell me that the work is continuing. The Ukrainians are very conscientious and are keeping the plant running. They go about their work and try to live a certain normality under these changed conditions. This is also a sheer necessity: first of all, to survive the war every day anew, and secondly, because sewage disposal and water supply are very important for citizens. All the more so, because Lviv has now become a hub and has to cope with about 200,000 additional people.
Do you know if they are still able to maintain the water supply? Or are parts of the water infrastructure already destroyed?
Kristin Michalek-Götz: The water supply is still running without problems. But they are expecting increasing difficulties because, for example, there are bottlenecks in the supply of some chemicals, such as chlorine and flocculants. The same is true for the fuel supply. This is due to the increase in the shelling of fuel depots. So far, everything is still running, but there is a quiet worry that this can no longer be maintained for weeks.