State plundering of nature reserves
Jeep rallies in relict forests
Over the last five years nature reserve land in Ukraine has contracted to a catastrophic degree. Environmentalists say that this is because those in power are appropriating parts of it.
Such reserves should be under State protection, yet according to the Cadastre Map of Ukraine made publically available for the first time this year, fairly large areas of supposedly protected land has been handed over for development or business use.
In a report, the NGO Environment – People – Law write that the worst such plundering has taken place in the Crimea.
Serhiy Shaparenko from the Kharkiv-based NGO Pechenihy notes that over the last 10 years nearly 400 hectares of land has been quietly removed from the Yalta reserve, mainly for development. If such plundering continues, he warns, Yalta could lose its status as a resort with a specific subtropical climate important for people with respiratory problems.
Oleksy Vasylyuk from the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine gives shocking details for the Kyiv oblast. On 194 nature reserve areas, he says, in 28 land is regularly given to private individuals. This can be areas of up to 600 hectares. “One reserve has been totally handed over for development. After our letters 12 criminal investigations were initiated, yet the land was not returned.”
In virtually all reserves investigated, various infringements of the law on nature reserves were identified. Century-old oaks are being cut down; reserve land turned into agricultural land; jeep races in relict forests, and more. Serhiy Shaparenko points to the destruction this is causing of the ecosystem. He says that you get the impression that government officials are not looking after environmental protection, but trying not to obstruct businesses in taking over reserve areas.
Oleksy Vasylyuk adds that the losses the State is incurring from such plundering are simply inestimable. He makes such calculations for Nahorny Kryak in the Luhansk oblast. “If this Steppe territory where around 18 plants which are in Ukraine’s Red Book is actively taken over then the fine for destruction of just the lichen from each hectare would be around 380 million UAH”.
The environmentalists add that the greatest threat is the lack of any will to create new natural reserves and attempts to remove current reserves. They call the court ruling from 2010 which cancelled the former President’s decree on creating a national park in the Luhansk oblast unprecedent.
Last year an activist defending the Holosiyivsky National Park who spoke out against development of part of it was badly injured in an attack.
In 2008 in the Kherson oblast there was an active campaign to create a national park and against cottage development on the land. 6 vilage heads who supported the idea of the park all found themselves under various criminal investigations.
The environmentalists stress the urgent need for public involvement.
From a report at the Deutsche Welle Ukrainian site