If there is a will, there is a way

How awareness raising is changing my life

written by Maksim Makukha

Perhaps my life story thus far is quite common. However, I would like to share how my life experience so far has provided invaluable lessons that have changed my mindset, and how through having a new mindset leads you to new challenges and experiences.

I started out with a pretty normal life plan after high school. I decided to study mechanical engineering and production management at a University; it seemed logical to pursue these fields of study as I already had some practical experience working with metal on my part-time after-classes job. However, while studying at the University, I realized that I did not necessarily want to be a production engineer, but the perfectionist in me told me that I should finish what I started.

After completing my studies at the University, I decided to take a more slow-paced approach to life. I elected to live in a village while also becoming a raw vegan. While living in the village, I began to read a lot of books, namely about ecological topics, such as eco-building, organic farming and permaculture. After experiencing village life for several months, I realized that I didn’t want to live only for a personal benefit, but for the benefit of others as well and help contribute to the betterment of society.

Subsequent to having such a profound realization, I began to detect ‘magic’ in my life. Firstly, by accident, I became an instructor for survival skills at a local scout camp. I realized that I really enjoyed working with children and imparting my knowledge on them. Moreover, this job allowed me to live in the forest while earning an income. What a dream job! Though it was only a part-time job in the summer and I had to find other means of income. While searching for another workplace I realized that if you wish to see a change in the world, you should make it your job.

After working as an instructor for a scout camp, I started working as a trade agent and engineer in a small company that worked with renewable energy. At the time, renewable energy was just entering the market in Ukraine, so the fact that I was able to work with such a company was a very beneficial and interesting experience for me. Then, life took a very bad turn for many people in Ukraine. At the end of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity began and the economy in Ukraine had collapsed, severely devaluing the Ukrainian currency. This was a difficult period for me, and for many people in Ukraine. However, when life closes one door, another one opens. I polished up some old skills and found work as a blacksmith assistant, which I enjoyed doing. After working for a short time in the blacksmith, I decided to move back to my native city, finding a job in an internet shop.

After moving back home, I still thought about how I could make the world a better place. In my free time, my family and I thought we could start by cleaning a nearby forest.

Even though contributing to society by picking up litter, felt good, it was an endless job. Every weekend, we would discover new trash left by local citizens who did not have access to a trash pick-up service. As a result, we decided to install trash containers to ease the amount of litter. Next we spoke to the village council and they agreed to install trash containers. We also found local people to co-fund the installation and management of trash containers and I received a special permission to install containers to collect PET and glass. Alas, we had the first village pilot project of sorting waste! After initiating the pilot project, I began my own small business of collecting valuable, recyclable materials in rural areas; it was a good business because not only did locals learn how to sort waste, but they also profited from disposing such materials to recycling centers.

Around that time, I started to ask myself “how can I change people’s mindset to think in a more eco-friendly way?” I decided to first collect batteries and other hazardous waste with volunteers. From that initiative, local teachers approached me to present the importance of sorting waste, like batteries to their students. From this initiative, a very important project was born: “ChistoTak!” (Clean-up!). Together with volunteers Istarted giving lessons to students of all ages on how to collect and sort materials. ChistoTak! began to expand throughout Ukraine, motivating other people to sort waste along the way. I eventually ended my small sorting business and began working full-time for an NGO, ‘Ekoltava’ that I cofounded together with fellow volunteers.

Now our NGO supports and consults local authorities and businesses on their way to sustainability. I’m growing as a professional together with my organization.

And now, an old dream of mine has come to fruition… studying environmental management in Germany! And life continues to open new and unexpected doors for me.

Where there is a will, there is a way.


Group work time

As also outlined in the Wold Water Quality Assessment Report presented during the recent Wold Water Week, Water and health issues are highly interlinked and are in turn influenced by a range of factors. A group activity has unpacked some of the most crucial connections and helped to strengthen system thinking. 

Four groups have unraveled in a comprehensive way how the following issues influence the water-health nexus:

 • Which role do weather and climate play?

 • What can the impact of culture and habits be?

 • How does land use and land cover influence the health-water relationship?

 • What are the connections between nutrition, water and health?

Numerous cases were shared to illustrate these connections in the context of the participants home regions. 

Visit at the Junior Research Group INOWAS

The group left Dresden upstream the river Elbe to Pirna, as there is a TU Dresden outpost of the hydro-sciences department to visit the Junior Research Group INOWAS. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and runs until 2018. The research group around our host Dr. Catalin Stefan aims at providing stakeholders with a scientifically based decision support system for planning, design and management of applications in the water sector. The focus lies on the qualitative and quantitative assessment of the managed groundwater reservoirs by means of scenario analysis, prognosis and risk assessment and with regard to the influencing climatic factors. More information on the research can be found on their website: https://tu-dresden.de/bu/umwelt/hydro/inowas

(Photos: T. Karp)

Waste Water Treatment – the long experience of Dresden

Waste water treatment is a key factor to reduce the environmental pollution, especially of water bodies. As an excellent opportunity to get practical knowledge about this crucial issue, the participants of the EM39-course have visited the facilities of the Sewage Treatment Plant of the capital city of Saxony “Stadtentwässerung Dresden”, which started operations about 100 years ago by using primary technologies. During the following years they developed different paths to improve the treatment quality facing the challenges produced by factors as population growth, industrial diversification among others. In this city more than 90% of all homes are connected to the public sewer system.

The head for the Laboratory of Industrial Pollutants, Mr. Norbert Lucke, shared all the main technical information about the whole waste water and sludge treatment with the course participants.


Special thanks to Mr. Norbert Lucke and Ms. Rita Knocher for sharing with CIPSEM the great experience of this company.

Report by Fany Ramos Quispe (Bolivia), photograph by Binod Gurung (Nepal)


Respectful Environment Initiative of Nowruz in Iran

“Open the windows, for the kind breeze is celebrating the birthday of the flowers, and spring, on each and every branch, next to each leaf, has lit candles!”

Above is cited a famous poem by the great Iranian poet Fereydoon Moshiri, welcoming spring. Today opening the window, I can hear the sparrow singing and blooming bulbs, the lovely sound of spring here at CIPSEM.

I am from Iran and in my country they celebrate Nowruz that usually occurs on 21st, March or the previous/following day, depending on when is the exact astronomical beginning of the spring. Iranians take that as the beginning of the year. This exact second is called “Saal Tahvil”. For Iranian New Year of 1395, here in Dresden was 20th, March 2016, 05:30 early morning accordingly.Been celebrated for over 3,000 years, International Nowruz Day was prefigured by the United Nations General Assembly, in 2010, at the initiative of some countries that share this holiday.

Sizdeh Bedar-13Sizdeh-Bedar3_Mehri

Persian spring festival is kept to “Sizdeh Bedar”, 13 days after the New Year day, about 4th, April. On the date, it is a must to spend time outdoors for a festive picnic in nature. Protecting the natural sceneries, Iran Department of Environment initiated long before to call it Nature Day by the calendar. Now it shall be reminded Nowruz respectful to the environment.

I take this opportunity, the hope of spring to speak from and to EM39 here at CIPSEM in Germany about natural environment conservation in my country.

by Mehri Sadat Alavinasab (Iran)

Visiting the waste management experts of TU Dresden

Today the participants of the ongoing 39th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Managment visited the Institute of Waste Management and Circular Economy of the TU Dresden in Pirna. The experts introduced the group to their research facilities and laboratories as well as presenting aspects of the potential of waste management in terms of reducing green-house-gas emissions.

Photos: A. Lindner