Maksym Borodyn: Primorsky Mariupol is not a resort, but a place for extreme tourists

/ The Interview /

We decided to find out whether it is possible to consider the desire to reformat the urban environment in the direction of comfort as a marker of the fact that Mariupol is moving away from the typology of an industrial city and approaching a resort? And how realistic is it in principle, given the fact that Mariupol remains one of the centers of the Ukrainian metallurgical industry with an unfavorable environmental situation? Maksym Borodyn, Mariupol urban planner and deputy of the city council, answered our questions.

In the last five years, Mariupol has increasingly appeared in the mass media as a city by the sea, which has become a place of implementation of many progressive urban projects. Large-scale cultural festivals are successfully held here and city parks are being reconstructed. Roger Narbony, the French designer and founder of light urbanism, together with the Ukrainian light designer Mykola Kabluka, are creating a citylight master plan for Mariupol, which we previously wrote about in the 24th volume of PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA in the article "Light plans. What are lighting strategies for cities?» Metropolitan architectural office ZOTOV&CO is developing a beach improvement project on the border of the city and the Meotida National Nature Park, a pedestrian boulevard project named after Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, a concept for the reconstruction of the station square.

PRAGMATIKA.MEDIA: Is a hybrid between an industrial and a resort town possible? Now, it seems, they are trying to tactically create this model in Mariupol.

Maxim Borodin: A beautiful picture has been formed, which in most cases has nothing to do with the main principles of new urbanism: all interventions in the environment should be simple and logical, solutions convenient and not creating additional problems for the city and its citizens. It is not enough to create a green zone, plant a group of plants and show off - here we have implemented the project. So far, we lack a systematic approach and strategic planning. When I criticized the mass use of rolled lawns for urban landscaping, arguing that in our steppe zone, where there is not enough rain, it is inappropriate. Our mayor answered me like this: "I saw lawns in Turkey - it's beautiful, I like it."

If there is no understanding of the principles of sustainable development, understanding in which direction the entire civilized world is moving, then a person will be guided exclusively by personal taste. I also like lawns as a part of the landscape, but I understand how many resources their maintenance requires. In addition, Mariupol is geographically located in a region with a negative drinking water balance. And if we are suddenly cut off from the Seversky Donets, then we will quickly drain our Starokrym reservoir with very hard water, and most of the city's plantations will die. Or the story of bicycle paths: our department of transport reports on the construction of new ones every now and then. But how to build cycle paths without a common strategy, cycle paths that lead from nowhere to nowhere and end up in a dead end? There is a lot of similar showmanship, simulacrums of urban projects that look beautiful on paper and in reports, but this painted urbanism has little to do with the everyday life of citizens.

PM: You yourself are a member of the working group that is developing the 2030 environmental strategy for Mariupol. And external experts — ecologists and urban planners from Europe — participate in the process. Isn't this a reason for optimism?

M. B.: All programs start with the proposal to start with ecological education of children. Question: who will teach? People who themselves have not understood the principles of sustainable development? Which negate the negative impact of emissions from Mariupol plants on urban landscaping? The older generation of Mariupol citizens was brought up back in the Soviet years, when ecology was hardly remembered. And I simply do not see people with new views. Unfortunately, even among young people. There is no interest in monitoring air and water pollution. Can people who do not sort garbage themselves tell children why it is necessary to do it? You can discuss the importance of green zones for a long time and make plans to relieve traffic, but suddenly the mayor's office approves a project to build a McDonald's in the center of the park and is even proud of it. Words mean nothing if there are no examples.

PM: However, in recent years, new external elements of a modern, comfortable city have appeared in Mariupol - new embankments, reconstructed squares. Are such "attributes of resort" enough for your city by the sea to become a resort, taking into account the fact that it still has to coexist with enterprises of heavy industry?

Maksym Borodyn, Mariupol urban planner and deputy of the city council

M. B.: As long as the level of industrial emissions into the atmosphere and water remains at the same level, there can be no question of any resort. It is possible to build dozens of new embankments, but who can think of resting here if visitors immediately complain that they have difficulty breathing or have developed allergies? I allow some kind of extreme, industrial tourism, when tourists can visit a metallurgical plant or a coke oven to stand in the blast furnaces, breathe the Mariupol air and admire the snow from the soot. If we are talking about the potential of the sea, then until it is closed by the coke oven, until modernization is carried out at the Azovstal and MMK plants, unfortunately, the sea will remain only a settling tank for industrial waste. When in 2014–2015 there was a decline in industrial activity due to hostilities, the sea water began to be purified. Nature is capable of self-recovery, we just have to give it a chance. But the level of production at the Mariupol factories today exceeded 2011.

As long as the level of industrial emissions into the atmosphere and water remains at the same level, there can be no question of any resort

PM: Is it possible to solve environmental problems by modernizing production? Or is it more honest to say that heavy industry, in principle, has no place in a seaside city?

M. B.: It is possible to solve the main problems with a full modernization of what is possible to modernize. But it is impossible to modernize coke ovens, for example. Batteries that have expired or are about to expire must be disassembled. The owner, if he wants, can build a new eco-friendly coconut house in the garden. But not in the center. But all the rest of the equipment at metal plants can be brought to such a state that it does not harm nature and does not cause discomfort to residents. Of course, the sanitary zone will have to be expanded. But outside of it, the city can be clean if the owner has the will. Recent years show that without strict control from the state, all modernization measures remain on paper.

PM: Today, does Mariupol make any money from its proximity to the sea and from tourists?

M. B.: Hardly a budget. Private entrepreneurs, of course, earn a penny from local beachgoers and a few visitors. It's a matter of volume and potential. If the city were to develop in the direction of greening, many commercial establishments would appear. The same birdwatching, popular in many European countries. In this sense, we have potential, as we border the Meotida National Park, a nesting place for rare birds.

Photo: Roman Pentin / Unsplash

PM: Has anyone tried to translate these prospects and potential into numbers? To show an alternative and opportunities to earn as a resort?

M. B.: As long as the city government is completely controlled by the industrial lobby, and there is a high demand for metal in the world, no one will count honest numbers. The rhetoric of the mayor and his assistants about creating a comfortable urban environment is competent and correct. But the result is not happy. For example, the reconstruction of park areas is pointless if a managing gardener is not assigned to each park. It is possible to invest 30 million hryvnias in new plants, but then each month suffers hundreds of thousands of losses because these plants die. And so it happens with the majority of urban ideas.

Interviewed by Iryna Isachenko