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21.05.2000 | E.Grinberg, Dnepropetrovsk

The right for healthy environment is the right for all

   

On the threshold of the new millenium manhood decided to consider seriously the problem ‘ecology and health’. This summer the meeting of Ministers of Health and Ecology will be held in London. For the first time public organizations, representatives of local self-rule and business circles will be admitted to the conference of such high level.

According to the obligations taken at the conference of the World Organization for Health, held in Helsinki in 1994, all European countries must prepare national programs and plans for supporting clean environment. They also must start to realize these programs.

As is known, Ukraine has serous problems with the health of her population, owing to the pollution of the environment, man-caused catastrophes, changes in ecosystems, urbanization, etc. On 22 January 1999 the seminar ‘Consulting process in developing and implementing the procedure of cleaning environment’ was held in Kharkiv. Representatives of the public and NGOs participated in this seminar.

We are sure that positive shifts in the improvement of ecology will become possible only if the wide public will be sufficiently informed and will participate in monitoring the current processes. In order to protect one’s rights, one must know them well enough. The right of citizens of Ukraine for life in the healthy environment is fixed in the corresponding articles of the Constitution of Ukraine, in the law ‘On protection of the environment’, in other laws on protecting health, in state building standards, etc. Nonetheless, all these laws have an important drawback: no control mechanism on the side of the public is stipulated. In the Ukrainian legislation some public control is stipulated only in the law ‘On ecological expertise’, but even in this law public control and monitoring are sketchy and not obligatory.

Meanwhile the Orhus Convention devoted to problems of informing the population about ecology, about the participation of the public in the decisions, which are taken by the government on problems of ecology, on the opportunity of court protection, was signed by Ukraine in June 1998. The Supreme Rada must be interested to ratify this Convention; NGOs and individual citizens must support the ratification. Alas, the mentality of our citizens is such that only 4% of the adult population believe that they can influence politic events in the country. Only 2% of the population believe that they must take on themselves some responsibility for the degradation of the environment and the nation’s health. The totalitarian regime suppressed the population for many decades, which resulted in an almost complete atrophy of the public initiative. In the post-totalitarian countries the civil society is very weak, the power is strong, and there are very few people with an active citizen’s position.

I would like to tell about enthusiasts from the public organizations ‘MAMA-86’ and ‘ECO Pravo’. These organizations, being supported by the corresponding committee of the Supreme Rada, by the English organizations ‘UNED UK’ and ‘Know-How’ fund, held a series of educational seminars in various regions of Ukraine.

Representatives of ‘ECO Pravo’ from Lviv, Kharkiv and Kyiv branches more than once won court cases related to the protection of rights for a clean environment. Activists of this organization carry out the public monitoring for the observance of the protecting legislation and exert pressure on the violators of such laws.

‘MAMA-86’ was registered by Kyiv city executive committee in 1991. Much water flew under bridges since that time, but the number of problems has not diminished. The organization established ‘eco-telephone’, and now every inhabitant of Kyiv can learn about the radiation background, the quality of drinking water or food. The number of region branches of ‘MAMA-86’ is growing. The main direction of their activities is providing a dialog between the population and state structures, carrying out prophylactic and educational work.

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