Minsk has hosted a round table "Enabling sustainable mobility in Belarus". The event was organized by the United Nations Development Programme in Belarus on the occasion of the launch of the European Mobility Week, which is to be held in 17 Belarusian cities from September 16 to 22, culminating in the Car-Free Day. This is the second European Mobility Week for Belarus.
The Belarusian capital is taking part in the European Mobility Week for the second time in a row, and has now formally signed the Charter of this international campaign for the first time. Urban mobility, new modes of transport, development of the transport network and environmental protection were among the issues discussed by representatives of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Belarus, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus, the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers and the joint project of the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Fund "Supporting Green Urban Development in Small and Medium-Sized Cities in Belarus" ("Green Cities").
This year, EMW in Belarus has gained a national coordinator: this European campaign is coordinated here by the United Nations Development Programme on behalf of the European Commission. Unlike the previous year, with only three Belarusian cities taking part in the campaign, this year the European Mobility Week are 17 Belarusian participants, including a number of cities, towns and two agro-towns - all thanks to the efforts and partnerships of the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers, UNDP in Belarus, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus.
According to Valliantsina Liaonchyk, Deputy Head of the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers and national expert of the UNDP in Belarus, this campaign is a powerful tool to promote the ideas of sustainable mobility and to disseminate best international practices in Belarus.
This year, the European Mobility Week is organized in more than 2 thousand cities and 48 countries of the world: the campaign to promote sustainable modes of urban transportation, walking and cycling has gone beyond the borders of the EU: various EWM events will be held in Canada, Mexico, South Korea, the USA and other countries.
In Belarus, the campaign will be launched, among other places, in Babruisk, Baranavichy, Brest, Hrodna, Marilee, Maladzechna, Orsha, Pinsk, Niasvizh and Salihorsk.
Participants of the round table in Minsk discussed matters of sustainable transportation in both large cities and small towns, development of pedestrian zones and city "furniture" in the form of parklets, were introduced to best international practices of using cargo bikes both for personal use (e.g. when they need to transport construction materials or something equally heavy) and for professional city postal and communal services. Participants of the discussion were also introduced to the activity-rich programme of the European Mobility Week, which will be held in different Belarusian cities (lectures, bicycle races, children’s workshops, contests, etc.). By the way, on the Car-Free Day (September 22), Minsk will give automobile drivers free access to public transportation (you can ride for free if you present your technical passport). The meeting in Minsk brought together representatives of local authorities, regional, city and district committees of natural resources and environmental protection, traffic inspection departments, civil society organizations and higher education institutions.
Ihar Chulba (in the centre), project coordinator, UNDP in Belarus
Addressing the round table, Ihar Chulba, project coordinator of UNDP in Belarus, noting that sustainable mobility development is one of the components within the project "Supporting Green Urban Development in Small and Medium-Sized Cities in Belarus", which will be implemented from 2016 to 2021 under the coordination of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus. The project, with the budget of $3,091 million, provides for development of "green" urban development plans, implementation of "pilot" sustainable city transport initiatives in Navapolatsk and Polatsk, as well as "pilot" energy efficiency initiatives in Navahrudak. Speaking of the European Mobility Week, Ihar Chulba noted that it is a good example of the sustainability tools, with the Paris climate deal also among them.
According to Andrey Pilipchuk, Head of Air and Ozone Layer Protection Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus, this week the Belarusian government has confirmed that Belarus is ready to join the Paris climate agreement, which offers hope that the country will be among the first thirty countries to ratify this document, thus helping to bring the deal into effect.
"Paris climate agreement is primarily focused on sustainable development, support of the "green" economy, introduction of renewables, of "green" transport: all of these things are interconnected and complement each other very well", Andrey Pilipchuk, representative of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus, noted during the round table, adding that the UNDP project, "Green Cities" helps to take a fresh look at the city-forming industries.
Palina Vardevanyan, national expert of the UNDP in Belarus and the Belarusian Union of Transport Workers pointed out the positive effects of sustainable mobility development. According to her, European experts have calculated that the EU budget has been saving up to 80 billion euros every year thanks to more active alternative ways of transportation used by the country residents. At the same time, popularization of healthy lifestyles and environmental sustainability through use of alternative modes of city transport has brought innumerable benefits.
European Mobility Week theme 2016 is "Smart Mobility. Strong Economy." Organizers of the week aim to draw attention of the participants to economic benefits and advantages that the development of "green" transports and sustainable mobility bring to the cities.