Ukraine - Lessons from Community Based Approaches in Water Supply Projects for Multi-ethnic Neighbourhoods in Crimea


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Water for peace

By the 1990s, violent conflict seemed all but inevitable on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. The return of more than 260,000 Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Armenians who had been deported by Stalin after World War II was creating massive tensions. Eighty-five percent of returnees made their home in 300 hastily constructed ‘compact settlements'. Most lacked access to safe drinking water - a problem that was rapidly becoming a lighting rod for discontent.

The Government of Ukraine and the international community carried out ad-hoc efforts to address the situation, but 30 percent of settlements still lacked safe drinking water. To help deal with this problem, the government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) created the Crimea Integration and Development Programme (CIDP) in 1995 with the goal of preserving peace among the different ethnic groups by addressing their development needs, particularly their need for water.

The ethnically mixed communities of Tenistoye and Sevastyanovka are two success stories. Both villages identified reliable water for drinking and gardening as overwhelming priorities. Since more than 80 percent of the population is unemployed, gardening is the main source of income for the majority of households. The two communities, which are home to over 800 people, were encouraged to form self-governing community organizations to work together on how to solve their water problems. Urged on by the local government and CIDP, people came together to build infrastructure, create reservoirs and install meters in homes, often bringing water resources from far away. Today, water fee collection rates are close to 100 percent.

"Attitudes can be changed so that communities are able to take stock of their own situation, identify their own needs, set their own priorities and decide what resources they can contribute towards the solution of their own problems", said Elvina Mustafaeva of UNDP/CIDP. "Meaningful community involvement through social mobilization can lead to positive changes in attitude - even in the complex environment of post-Soviet Crimea".

The programme had its share of challenges. Some village councils were reluctant to hand over control over the water supply system to community-based organizations. These organizations had difficulties registering themselves as enterprises that deliver public services. And procedures for getting licenses and permits for use of ground water were costly, complicated, and unclear.

But these challenges have been overcome; the programme has been a success. Realizing the effectiveness of the models developed and implemented by CIDP, the government has asked UNDP to extend the community-based water supply systems to other districts and to assist in integrating these alternative modes of public service delivery into government practices. Now the CIDP is supporting community-based water supply systems in 11 districts, covering almost all the Crimean peninsula. </i>


Crimea Integration and Development Programme (CIDP): Lessons from Community Based Approaches in Water Supply Projects for Multi-ethnic Neighbourhoods in Crimea

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope


CIDP is a multilateral programme supported by a handful of International Development Agencies such as CIDA, SDC and SIDA.

The implementation modus is Direct Execution DEX.


Elvina Mustafaeva, Information/Communication Specialist, UNDP/Crimea Integration and Development Programme


Background and Significance

Crimean Landscape
Crimean Landscape

The UNDP Crimea Integration and Development Programme (CIDP) was established in response to the complex challenges faced by Ukraine after independence in relation to Crimea. On top of the widespread negative effects of the social and economic collapse following the break-up of the Soviet Union that affected the entire country, and the subsequent challenges of transition towards a democratic society and a market economy, there were a number of specific issues and events in Crimea that made the situation there potentially more volatile than elsewhere in Ukraine.

For centuries, the Crimean peninsula has been home to a large variety of ethnic groups. However, in 1944 the Soviet Government forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians and other ethnic groups to the Urals, Siberia, and Soviet Central Asia for alleged collaboration with Nazi Germany.

The mass return of more than 260,000 formerly deported people (FDP), created tensions that quickly escalated to a point where widespread violent conflict seemed likely, with potentially destabilizing effects for the young Ukrainian state. Of these returnees, 85% settled in the rural steppe areas of the northern two-thirds of the peninsula, mostly in so-called “compact settlements”, three hundred of which have been constructed more or less spontaneously since their return.

Timely and concerted efforts by the Government of Ukraine and the International Community have contributed to stabilizing the situation in Crimea during the nineties. However, the vast majority of Crimean Tatars continued to find themselves in a marginalized and excluded position vis-à-vis mainstream society, while many other Crimeans, in particular in the rural areas, were equally struggling to make ends meet.

In spite of an ambitious programme by the Government of Ukraine to establish basic social and economic infrastructure and services in these settlements, up to 30% of these communities still lack safe drinking water.

Goal and Objectives

According to the Programme Document signed between the Government of Ukraine and the United Nations Development Programme in December 2004, CIDP’s main goal is to foster sustainable human development in a manner that contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability in Crimea through initiatives aimed at preventing interethnic violence and enhancing peaceful coexistence among different ethnic groups.

This includes the following five sub-goals:

- Promote good governance and integration by encouraging citizens of multi-ethnic communities to actively participate in improving living conditions in partnership with local authorities

- Reduce marked economic disparities between underprivileged groups and the rest of the population by promoting income and employment creation with special emphasis on entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprise development

- Increase tolerance and social cohesion through education and culture

- Improve quality and accessibility of basic infrastructure and social services in needy areas

- Increase responsiveness to potential conflict areas through the setting up of a Human Security Monitoring System

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions


CIDP applies an area-based, bottom-up, participatory and networking approach in promoting integration and development in Crimea. Through the use of social mobilization techniques, people in rural communities are encouraged and empowered to participate in decision-making processes that affect their daily lives. Social mobilization is a systematic procedure to apply the main principles of good governance, i.e. citizens’ participation, transparency, accountability and democracy, at community level.

The approach of promoting community-based social development projects has proved to positively impact on preventing violent conflict in the target areas by improving access to social services as well as promoting positive and tolerant attitudes and behaviour of all stakeholders involved, including FDPs, non-FDPs, men, women and relevant authorities. The emergence of Community Organizations not only strengthens social cohesion, inclusion and integration in settlements between residents of different ethnic backgrounds, but it also empowers the community by building self-confidence that they can address common problems by joining efforts and mobilizing local resources. Finally, by partnering with local authorities for the realization of their plans on terms of equality, the sense of exclusion and marginalization that exists in many FDP settlements decreases.


Men and women in multi-enthnic Crimean neighbourhoods are benefitting from CIDP's Water Supply Projects. Furthermore, the Programme assists the Governance of ARC as well as the district and local authorities in integrating CIDP's alternative public service delivery mechanisms into their own structures and practices.


CIDP is supporting community-based water supply systems in 11 ARC Districts, therefore covering almost the whole Peninsula.


Responding to the changing development situation in Crimea over the last 10 years, CIDP applied different approaches in different programme phases to achieve its objective of integration and development in Crimea. Following an emergency response approach during the first two phases (1995 – 2000), the programme was shifting to a social mobilization approach during its third phase (2001 – 2004). It is focusing on community initiatives aimed at empowering marginalized and excluded communities and groups of people, including formerly deported people, to take initiative and actively participate in improving their living conditions and integrate into mainstream society.

During the fourth phase (2005 -2007), CIDP will need to complement this with an integrated approach to regional development in Crimea that goes beyond the community level to intervene at the policy level


Considering as example the experiences in two communities, Tenistoye and Sevastyanovka, which were serving as pilot projects in the early 2000s. As in many rural villages in Crimea, both settlements identified reliable drinking water supplies and adequate water for home gardening (irrigation) as overwhelming priorities. Since more than 80% of the active population is unemployed, gardening is the main source of income for the majority of the households. This untenable situation has aggravated poverty and has naturally increased the potential for conflict by fuelling sentiments of frustration and despair amongst the 800 inhabitants of the two communities. The main aim of CIDP's work in Sevastyanovka and Tenistoye was to create an attitude of self-confidence within the communities. Since rural communities (and in particular FDPs) tended to wait for the central government to improve their Projects situation, the projects aimed at assisting both target communities to realise that they can do a great deal on their own, without outside help. This new attitude amongst the majority of the population could be created by strictly adhering to the concept of community participation through social mobilisation.

Concept and Implementation Process

In order to ensure a participatory development approach that builds upon self-reliance and self-organisation right from the outset of the projects, the two communities were encouraged to organise themselves in several self-governing Community Organisations (CO). These are informal institutional set-ups at neighbourhood or settlement level that address community problems on the basis of democratic governance and the principles of transparency and accountability. Besides the formation of the community organisations, community saving funds were established in order to finance certain development initiatives, to assist needy community members as well as to provide small credits as a basis for expanding into income generating activities.

Crimean Tatar Girl
Crimean Tatar Girl

Identification and prioritisation of community needs

Once the community organisations were formed and the saving funds established, several public meetings were facilitated by CIDP’s Community Mobilisation Assistants. During such meetings, common interests, problems and needs were prioritised and a corresponding community development plan (including social, economic and infrastructure projects) was prepared. Water supplies ranked top on these priority lists. The community organisations then presented their development plans to the local village councils in order to incorporate them into local and regional development plans. Preliminary project proposals were also presented to UNDP/CIDP for technical and financial assistance.

Project formulation, planning and design

CIDP specialists, together with the community organisation subsequently studied the feasibility of the project proposals and initiated the necessary technical design. A so-called Functional Group (FG) - consisting of 3-5 community members having some technical knowledge related to water supply – was constituted to represent the communities’ interests throughout the planning and design process. The functional group prepared the preliminary layout plan indicating potential water sources, the alignment of water mains, the location of proposed reservoirs, the proposed water distribution lines, etc. In addition, the FG collected demographic data, information on public and private establishments located in the project area, and livestock levels - in order to calculate the total water requirements of the community. The FG also prepared a tentative cost calculation. Both pilot projects are technically challenging, because the raw water sources are far away from the communities and because the availability of raw water is limited. When these considerations were combined with the requirement to follow old Soviet standards and norms, the original system designs that were prepared by the Republican Committee for Nationalities and Ethnic Minorities of Crimea pointed towards considerable per capita investment costs. A private consultancy firm working with CIDP and the communities then revised these designs, reducing the final investment costs significantly. Subsequently, the CO presented the project proposal to the Crimea Regional Forum for Integration and Development, which is chaired by the Regional State Administration. The Forum is facilitated by the local CIDP Integration & Development Centre and brings together all village councils, community organisations, local NGOs and other stakeholders in a given region.

Project implementation and monitoring

After approval, UNDP/CIDP and the community organisations concluded contracts for the implementation of the projects. The contracts determine the scope of works; the cost-sharing contributions between UNDP/CIDP, the community organisation and the local authorities; the milestones for progress; the payment schedules and completion procedures. The contracts also stipulate responsibilities for the operation and maintenance of the systems. For construction works, UNDP/CIDP selected specialized contractors by open competitive bidding in the presence of the community organisations. Complementing the work carried out by contractors, the community organisations actively participated in the construction of the water distribution systems, the individual house connections and the installation of water meters. Local authorities (village council and regional state administration) provided modest funds from their limited budgets and in-kind support such as equipment. Most importantly, they provided vital administrative support to ensure that all legal requirements were met, and that permits were issued (a) for construction works and (b) for user-based operation and maintenance of the systems. Moreover, the village council has taken the water supply system in its inventory that will ensure the possibility to allocate budget for future major maintenance and expansion of the system. During implementation, progress of the projects was regularly monitored by CIDP staff (including the CIDP engineer), the CIDP community development specialist and the local community mobilization assistants.

Handing over

Before handing over the completed projects, leakage tests were conducted for pipelines and reservoirs. Water quality was tested at the source, at the reservoir and at the house tap. The contractor received the final payment once all tests were completed successfully, and the projects was then handed over to Communal Enterprises (KomunKhoz) – the body responsible for the maintenance and management of rural drinking water supply systems in the village council. KomunKhoz is the only institution responsible for operation and maintenance of water supply systems in rural areas, and the quality of water supply service provision is generally very poor. Water tariffs are centrally determined without taking into account the actual cost of operating and maintaining the water supply system. A lack of accountability and transparency, coupled with low involvement of users in the management of the systems, results in users not feeling responsible for the upkeep of the water system. Consequently, collection of water user fees is inadequate to meet operation and maintenance costs. The corollaries of this weakness are frequent breakdowns and service interruptions. In turn, the dissatisfaction of users with the poor service level results in a low willingness to pay. Low willingness to pay and inefficient fee collection leads to low revenue, which further undermines the possibility of improving service delivery. This vicious circle affects a large number of social and communal services following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although many local authorities would like to rescue poor public service providers from this spiral of decay, they cannot achieve this through subsidisation – not least because they simply do not have the budgetary reserves necessary to attempt remedial action. UNDP/CIDP has responded to this progressively worsening situation - in close collaboration with all stakeholders - by developing an alternative institutional and organizational model for community-based water supply O&M management.

Operation and maintenance

The result of past experience and extensive consultations between all stakeholders (and in particular with the communities) is a community-based O&M management system which is transparent and financially sustainable. This system is particularly suitable for relatively small rural water supply systems and has been successfully tested in the two pilot communities. Following this model, the village councils responsible for the two settlements are now the owners of the water supply infrastructure, and have authorized the community organisations to autonomously manage, operate and maintain the systems. Agreements between the village councils and the community organisations regulate their respective responsibilities - particularly in terms of land taxation, tariff setting, monitoring and reporting. Subsequently, the community organisations have selected a member from their functional groups who then registers as a so-called Community-Based Enterprise (CBE). The community organisations have sub-contracted all O&M tasks and responsibilities (including financial administration of the water supply systems) to the CBE. To ensure payment by consumers, the CBE establishes service delivery contracts for the provision of water services with individual households, commercial enterprises and other institutions. Only households that joined the community organisations were connected to the water supply systems. In order to reliably monitor and charge for water consumption, all house connections were equipped with water meters. The simplicity and transparency of this arrangement has been proven, and social control has already minimized misuse. In addition, water fees are directly linked to the actual costs of the components, which have been discussed with (and approved by) the community organisations. As the tariff and contract validities are time-bound, there is a clear incentive for the CBE to be as cost-effective as possible in order to turn a reasonable profit – by minimizing overheads and ensuring that routine maintenance precludes the need for major (and costly) repairs. Under this lean management arrangement, users generally pay less because there is no need for the bureaucratic and technical apparatus generally associated with more centralized systems of water supply management. Whilst water for Tenistoye is being supplied from a borehole, the system in Sevastyanovka is connected to the communal water supply. In the latter case, an agreement between KommunKhoz and the CBE was signed that essentially determines the quantity and quality of water to be supplied to the settlement, the unit cost of water, the services to be provided in case of major breakages and the charges for technical services and equipment.

Financial mechanisms

In the past, consumers were charged a fixed fee for water, calculated as a lump sum per head (for domestic use) and per m2 (for irrigation) of the kitchen garden. The reason for this mechanism was that many users did not have water meters installed. As a result, there were no incentives for individual users to be frugal with their use of water, as the fees were not related to the actual amount consumed. Apart from being environmentally unsustainable, consumers also felt that this system was intrinsically unfair. Numerous misunderstandings have led consumers to mistrust the KomunKhoz, originally responsible for O&M. Consequently, many people simply did not pay for the water they used. In response, water meters were installed by users in the communities; although this is typically an expensive addition to any water system, the use of meters is seen a prerequisite for a fair and regular collection of water fees that can cover the following costs: production costs (power consumption for pumping, etc),royalties or procurement of water, recurrent operational and maintenance costs (remuneration for services), material cost for routine, periodic preventive and major maintenance, depreciation of the system, taxes and rent of land. In addition, the communities were advised to determine a minimum basic per capita requirement for drinking purposes. The tariff for the water consumption that exceeds this basic requirement – the lifeline block - should be set at a higher level. This system is frequently referred to as a rising block tariff system. In the pilot areas, monthly fees are now collected by the CBE. Revenue is deposited in a bank account that is expressly and exclusively used for financial administration of O&M for the water supply system. The CBE is responsible for monthly meter reading and for the collection of water charges based on the tariff approved by the community organisations. The tariff component that is reserved for depreciation is transferred on a monthly basis to a depreciation fund held and managed by the community organisation. The main purpose of this fund is to finance the rehabilitation of the system. Whereas O&M can now be covered from revenue collected through fees, it is still unrealistic to expect users to cover the capital costs of system extensions. In the event of major breakdowns or natural disasters, external support (from government) will probably be needed to restore the systems. Although CBEs have been elected by the community organisations based on existing technical skills, a supporting training package has been developed by UNDP/CIDP. The aim of this initiative is to provide the CBEs with tailor-made training; the scope covers technical matters but is mainly focussed on basic business management, accounting and financial administration.

Results and Impact

The showcase would focus on community-based development initiatives through social mobilization. CIDP enabled local communities to solve their water supply problems by encouraging them to organize themselves in several self-governing Community Organizations (CO) and to establish Community saving funds. COs were able to take stock of their situation, identify needs, set priorities and decide what resources they can contribute towards the solution. They participated in the design of water supply system and its construction. The programme also developed an alternative institutional and organizational model for community-based water supply O&M management, where COs were authorized to autonomously manage, operate and maintain the systems through Community Based Enterprises. Thus, development of communal infrastructure served as an entry point for the promotion of good governance and hence to reduction of poverty.

Lessons for Replication

Running Water, a result of the project
Running Water, a result of the project

The most important lesson learned is that meaningful community involvement through social mobilisation can lead to positive changes in attitude - even in the complex environment of post-soviet Crimea. Attitudes can be changed so that communities are able to take stock of their own situation, identify their own needs, set their own priorities and decide what resources they can contribute towards the solution of their own problems.

With respect to observations made several years ago, the opinions of public authorities at national, regional and local levels towards CIDP and its approaches have shifted considerably. The orientation towards real community involvement is seen as a viable approach (if not the only approach) for improving the desperate conditions prevalent in most rural villages - and particularly in FDP compact settlements. Nowadays, community participation is not just accepted but is actively and sometimes even enthusiastically supported by regional administrations and village councils throughout the Crimea. This growing awareness is currently contributing to mainstream community involvement in planning and decision-making processes throughout the Crimea; it favours a gradual scaling up of the approach as it reaches influential decision-makers at the policy level. CIDP has been invited by the Republican Committee for Housing and Communal Services that is responsible for operation and maintenance of communal infrastructure to take an active role in the finalisation of a key policy paper.

At the project level CIDP combines technical know-how with social competence. As a result, technically sound water supply facilities have been constructed in the above-mentioned communities with substantial contributions made by the communities themselves. The communities can now rectify problems such as system leakage independently, right on the spot. In both communities, the establishment of community organisations has helped to overcome prejudices and inter-ethnic relations have greatly improved. With the advent of social mobilisation, people interact and work side by side on their priority projects. The communities feel overwhelmingly proud about their achievements. After just a few months of operation, they already realise that the new service has substantially changed their lives for the better. Although the processes promoted by CIDP were followed during preparation, construction, operation and maintenance, the communities had to make their own adjustments regarding cost recovery. The fact that both communities were able to resolve cost recovery problems shows that even in the specific socioeconomic context of the Crimea, the concept of community participation/involvement through social mobilisation works.

Furthermore, CIDP’s experience shows 1. Meaningful community involvement through social mobilization can lead to positive changes in attitude - even in the complex environment of post-soviet Crimea. Attitudes can be changed so that communities are able to take stock of their own situation, identify their own needs, set their own priorities and decide what resources they can contribute towards the solution of their own problems. This growing awareness is currently contributing to mainstream community involvement in planning and decision-making processes throughout the Crimea.

2. The key to acceptance and participation is the transparency of the entire mechanism and process. A critical step is to use simple and understandable terminology in the calculation of the water tariff.

3. People are willing to regularly pay for water if the quality of the water service is ensured. In contrast to systems operated by the State Housing and Communal Service Enterprises, water fee collection rates in the community-owned rural water supply systems are usually 100%.

4. Existing Government norms for the design of water supply infrastructure are inappropriate. For example, after constructing two water reservoirs (100 m3 each) for 500 people in Sevastyanovka settlement in accordance with Ukrainian norms only 40% of their capacity was used even during the summer months. Today, the reservoirs serve two villages with a total of 1000 inhabitants.

Major problems faced in the process of operating and maintaining the community-based water supply systems are: 1. Reluctance of some Village Councils to handover a water supply system to community organizations and CBEs 2. Difficulties faced by CBEs in registering themselves as an enterprise that delivers public services 3. Costly, complicated, and unclear procedures for getting licenses and permits for abstraction and use of ground water 4. Administering social assistance and privileges 5. Lack of required technical facilities within the district to undertake major repair works, and to test water quality 6. Low capability of Housing and Communal Services Enterprises.

Main Results

See below in chapter on lessons learned & replication

Outlook (Conclusions and Next Steps)

During the fourth phase, CIDP is promoting an integrated approach to regional development in Crimea that goes beyond the community level to intervene at the policy level. The Government of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea intends to reform public services management. Realizing the effectiveness of the models developed and implemented by UNDP’s Crimea Integration and Development Programme (CIDP), the Government has requested UNDP to (a) extend the community-based water supply systems to other districts and (b) to assist in integrating these alternative public service delivery mechanisms into their own structures and practices. Project interventions are therefore primarily focused on integrating the community-based rural water supply mechanisms into the water services sector in Crimea thereby ensuring both their sustainability as well as scaling up. At the same time, this process would contribute to the overall improvement of the water services sector in Crimea. Interventions will focus on the regulatory and institutional framework; on building the technical and managerial capacities of organizations involved in provision and delivery of water services and on identifying sustainable mechanisms for financing water supply infrastructure.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

Timeframe & Status

CIDP has been supporting the improvement of municipal water supply systems of Crimea from the very beginning (1996) and is continuing to do so in the current 4th phase of the programme (2005-2007).


See also

Water Knowledge Fair 2006

Lessons from Community Based Approaches in Water Supply Projects for Multi-Ethnic Neighbourhoods in Crimea

Reforming Municipal Water Supply Systems in Rural Areas of Crimea

External Resources


 Water Supply Systems Crimea - SDC Case Study.pdf  S community-based rural water supply systems .pdf

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