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23.11.2012

Mariupol: Give us air to breathe!

   

Give us air!

Who’s behind it all?  The standard question after every major protest or demonstration in Ukraine has been heard after many thousands came out onto the streets in the industrial city of Mariupol on 4 November.  The publication “Rodnoye Pryazovye” spoke with one of the coordinators of the “Give us Air!” movement Maxim Borodin about the protest and what next. 

Maxim Borodin says that they keep being asked what political force or business structure is behind their protest. At the moment the questions from the authorities and factory owners are on an unofficial level but are not going away. “They simply don’t understand that people are capable of this themselves. The point is that our movement has one cause – the critical environmental situation which became even worse in August last year.

Take me, for example, why did I get involved in the movement?  At the point at which the situation worsened radically, my wife was pregnant.

There is obviously a personal motive, like for every resident of the city. We live here and can’t get away from that. .

He says that the situation has now become unendurable. Before the city would be in smog once a month whereas now it’s virtually every day.

Warnings about “NMU” or unfavourable meteorological conditions are issued in two types of situations. This is either because weather conditions are such that the emissions don’t have a change to disperse, or due to “banal excess of fumes”.  He says that in 90% of the cases in Mariupol this is the case. Only 15-20 of the 190 days so far eliciting warnings this year have been due to fog.

There is a corridor of smog along Lenin Avenue, directly from the nitrate steel plant.  The source of the smog is visible to the naked eye. The plant is in the centre of the city with obsolete equipment and reprocesses pulp with various substances. They don’t actually know what is being added.  The point, however, is that the situation deteriorated dramatically when the active reprocessing of pulp began.

The people he has spoken with say that the problem is in the equipment, in the fact that nobody has taken the filters away. “It’s simply that for a very long time at Azovstal there were staff reductions, they minimized the number of members of staff responsible for environmental control”.  The profit motivation took over and now there’s nobody even to service the filters.

He says that when the plant closed down for diagnostic purposes in the last few days there was a radical change. It became possible to breathe.

Nobody, he stresses, is trying to get the factories closed. People need work.  They’re not asking for a resort, just adequate environmental conditions for existence.

Maxim Borodin stresses that it is possible to mobilize people without money being involved, or political motives. Nor is he surprised at the thousands who came out.  People had had enough. The situation had been ignored for two months.

What next?

The resolution passed at the protest clearly set out the main demands of Metinvest and the city authorities. Borodin stresses that they themselves have no interest in constant demonstrations which are hugely demanding in time and nervous energy.

He has information that there is some movement at Azovstal (the nitrate steel plant) and that they’re doing something about the equipment.  If, however, it all ends at the level of talk, then they will organize themselves, there are groups ready to come out in protest.

Maxim Borodin says that this is his first experience of organizing a protest movement, and that he’d prefer to be getting on with his work, his life.

You’re not frightened that you personally will suffer in some way from your civic position?

I understand very well that they can grind me into pulp in seconds. You have to simply choose between this fear and another. That at the time when you could have done something about what is affecting the health of your child you didn’t do it. I’m simply not prepared to live with that."

The cause for concern is clearly visible in the following video

http://www.0629.com.ua/news-23043.html - it was made on 12 October with a video recorder positioned for an hour on a Mariupol high-rise

From an interview here  http://www.rp-ua.com/news_slide.php?id=286

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