Awarded for his work on the humanitarian and environmental impacts of wildfires.

Category: Preparedness

During the last 20 years of his professional career, Sergiy Zibtsev, professor at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, devoted his efforts for preventing wildfires of catastrophic dimensions in forests contaminated by radioactivity, as a consequence of the failure of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986. He assessed the effects of a worst-case scenario of a wildfire burning in contaminated terrain and mobilized political awareness to take appropriate action. Scientific studies carried out by an international group of prominent scientists, coordinated by Dr. Sergiy Zibtsev, proved that a high radioactive wildfire hazard exists in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The hazard is increasing and representing a threat by radioactive emissions to the security, and especially the food supply, of people in the Ukraine and Eastern European region. Abovementioned joint international efforts on rising awareness allowed him to develop a mitigation plan, get technical support and receive national and international funding for the prevention and preparedness of a possible environmental and humanitarian catastrophe. Currently, Dr. Zibtsev is working with the Global Environment Facility (GEF)/UN Environment Program (UNEP) to launch a project aimed at improving wildfire management capacities in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

As the Chernobyl wildfire hazard has reached a regional scale and requires extended international cross-border co-operation, the Regional Eastern European Fire Monitoring Centre (REEFMC), was established in 2013 at the National University. The REEFMC serves as a center of excellence in wildland fire research, developing a regional network for distribution of information on concepts of integrated fire management.

The REEFMC is working at the interface of science and the user communities, particularly by serving national agencies in Ukraine and neighbouring Eastern European countries with data and information, capacity building (training), advisory services for developing fire management policies and enhancing local and national fire management capabilities. The centre is a facilitator of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Regional Eurasia Wildland Fire Network and thus serving the Global Wildland Fire Network, a global coalition of dedicated institutions and individuals serving the UNISDR system as a Thematic Platform and advisory body.