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A spot by the water

Photo: Lybid Ye © Creative-Commons-Lizenz BY-NC-ND 3.0Once upon a time, the Lybid was navigable: First kayak ride on the Lybid in early 2016 - Photo: © Lybid Ye, Creative-Commons-Lizenz BY-NC-ND 3.0

A spot by the water

The people of Kyiv are reclaiming the public space in their city. Thanks to a local initiative, the embankment along the formerly polluted river Lybid is filled with new life.

Early in 2016, three young locals kayaked down the small river Lybid. Nothing would be uncommon about this were it not for the fact that long stretches of the water flowed underground. With this action, Maksym Mramonov, Dmytro Nechvolod, and Artem Zavarzin wanted to draw attention to the countless ecological and infrastructural problems of the river.

The three young men started their tour in the heart of the city. Their first discoveries were sobering: large sections of the vegetation along the embankment were littered with trash. In some places they found polluted snow, as well as industrial and household waste that had been thrown into the river. The kayakers repeatedly came across tires that had found their final resting place in the Lybid.

The woeful tale of the Lybid

The 17 kilometer-long Lybid is the right tributary of the Dnipro river. The Lybid flows through numerous inner city neighborhoods of Kyiv before emptying into the Dnipro. In the 1930s the marshy embankments of the Lybid were considered breeding grounds for Malaria, which is why the Soviet city government decided to construct a network of underground canals. As a result, the river was soon forgotten.

  • Once upon a time, the Lybid was navigable: First kayak ride on the Lybid in early 2016 - Photo: © Lybid Ye, Creative-Commons-Lizenz BY-NC-ND 3.0

  • PR for the Lybid: Fire show on the riverbank in the spring of 2016 - Photo: © Lybid Ye, Creative-Commons-Lizenz BY-NC-ND 3.0

  • Upgrading the riverbank: A wooden platform doubles as a seating area and a stage - Photo: © Lybid Ye, Creative-Commons-Lizenz BY-NC-ND 3.0

  • Nature in concrete: Second kayak ride in May 2016 - Photo: © Lybid Ye, Creative-Commons-Lizenz BY-NC-ND 3.0

Today the Lybid’s main cause of complaint is sewage. Sediment deposits, accumulations of radioactive nuclides and heavy metals, as well as illicitly disposed of household sewage have contributed significantly to the pollution of the river.

This type of littering is a thorn in the side of environmental activists. In the last 15 years, many housing developments sprang up in Kyiv, some of which are not connected to the citywide canalization system. Unfiltered household sewage continues to make its way into the feeders of the Lybid via unauthorized pipes. Although some of these pipes have been dismantled by now, the larger ones – with a diameter of half a meter – are not so easily removed and therefore remain until today.

The Lybid’s drainage basin covers across approximately 40 percent of Kyiv’s surface area to the right of the Dnipro. All the sewage there flows into the subterranean canals and thereby into the river.

Mobilize the community, save the river

In 2014 the Kyivan landscape artist Semen Polomanyj received the special prize of the international architecture competition CANactions for his project to revitalize the river and the green space of Kyiv. (Title: Revival of the Green Material and Blue Arteries.)

It was subsequently decided that the quite extensive plan was to be implemented in baby steps. The revitalization of the Lybid was set as the highest priority. A small group of locals around Polomanyj became the driving force behind the project.

In order to revitalize a river, one must first raise the public’s consciousness about the problem. Citizens of Kyiv were called to action on Facebook to participate in a clean-up operation on the riverbank. Various events on the Lybid’s embankments were designed to emphasize the environmental problems of the river.

Category: People & Blogs – Licence: Standard-YouTube-Licence

Transforming the riverside

Reaching the wider public is an additional goal of the interventions, such as a quick temporary transformation of the space near the river, initiated by a group of young Kyivan architects. The team of Serhiy Kovaliov, who specializes in social architecture and also works in the sphere of public relations and education projects, joined with the Lybid activists with suggestions for improving the embankment. They designed and built a wooden platform that doubles as a seating area and a stage. Soon after this “river terrace” was completed, it began to be used as a public space for events. The embankment is now a neighborhood spot of recreation and relaxation for university students and nearby office workers alike.

The Lybid lives on advocacy

The Kyiv media reports about the events on the river terrace and thereby promotes the wishes of the locals to use it as a public space. More and more people are joining the activists and offering their help. The initiatives have developed their own momentum; for instance, the NGO Lybid je (English: “The Lybid lives”) was founded with the purpose of revitalizing the river.

Dozens of events have taken place on the riverside since this activism began. The collaboration of different people from various backgrounds turned out to be particularly fruitful. So far all those involved have pulled together in order to reach their collective goal. There is hope that the initiative, with the support of the city population, will reclaim more and more public space.

In May 2016, Maksym, Dmytro and Artem kayaked down the Lybid once more. This time they wanted to show their fellow citizens that the river is a place where it is possible to enjoy yourself.


    July 2016
    Rural & Urban Nature
    Ukraine, Ukraine, Kyiv

    Lybid Ye


    Yulia Salij
    is Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of the Kyiv-based online-magazine Hmarochos (means ‘skyscraper’ in ukrainian) about urban culture, urbanism and city development:

    Translated by

    Maria Herchak



    Ukrainian Version


    Further Topics

    Food & Drink
    Public Relations
    Rural & Urban Nature
    Space & Housing