10.03.2010 | Oleksandr Stepanenko

Is it worth creating catastrophes from industry?


Last week the Ternopil Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Advice Centre received people and learned about the situation in the environmental disaster zone which covers the city of Kalush and villages of Kropyvnyk and Sivka-Kaluska in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.

The local authorities there and residents are seriously concerned that since the President signed his Decree a month has passed and yet the funding envisaged in it for carrying out priority steps on eliminating environmental risks, monitoring and making prognoses has not emerged.

Nor do the largest enterprises in Kalush – Carpatnaftokhim and LUKOR – which at one point took over the assets of the OJSC Oriana Potassium Plant and Chlorvinil factory see the need to become involved in eliminating the consequences.

Yet the remains left from the chemical monsters of past years will, it seems, long be a horror for local residents and a headache for the State. The main such problem is the toxic waste area where there are around 12 thousand tonnes of hexachlorobenzene, that is, a third of all Ukraine’s toxic waste. The management of LUKOR clearly does not acknowledge legal liability for the level of safety of the toxic waste. Furthermore the new monster is continuing to pile onto potassium dumps rare waste from modern production the toxicity of which has not been determined.

It would seem that neither the bosses from Russia’s Lukoil who own most shares of the Kalush chemical plants, nor Ukrainian officials from controlling and permit State institutions are aware that the universal principle applies everywhere in the world that the polluter pays. In such a situation, there is nobody to pay for the burden of environmental disasters but the taxpayer.

It is clear all around that the package of environmental risks which urgently need to be minimized in Kalush is considerable. It includes dips in the earth surface over mining shafts. In all on the territory of mine fields, and therefore under some risk of destruction, are around 1 thousand residential buildings in Kalush, the villages of Kropyvnyk, Sivka-Kaluska and Holin. There are also 15 million cubic metres of brine and chemical waste in the Dombrovsky quarry which have already caused salinization of subterranean water over an area of 950 hectares and swiftly migrate to the river Limnytsya and Kalush water supply sources.  That same quarry is also under threat of flooding by the Sivka river. If in addition to spring flows of water, dams of Tailing Pit No. 2 of the former potassium factor are destroyed, as well as 10 million cubic metres of salt brine gets into the river, then the entire Dniester awaits consequences comparable to the notorious Stebny Disaster of 1983.

The amount of time, therefore, set aside for immediate and well-thought-out action is not so large. However it would seem as though the 90 day period of environmental disaster stage could be confined to bureaucratic establishing what to do, how and when.

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