Dniester Canyon: nature sold for wood and stone
As reported, environmentalists warn of serious risk to the Dniester Canyon if it does not receive national park status in the nearest future. They consider that it is local officials who are obstructing the establishment of a national park. The latter deny such charges.
The Dniester Valley in the Ternopil region is a forested rocky canyon which has been declared one of Ukraine’s seven natural wonders. It holds the world’s largest caves and monuments of very old architecture, including the family estate of the Pototsky Princes. All of this could be the basis of tourist development of the region – or, as the coordinator of the civic movement Dniester Environmental Wave, Oleksandr Stepanenko warns, it can be destroyed.
“In formal terms, the Dniester Canyon is protected by its status as regional landscape part. However this exists only on paper”, Mr Stepanenko explains. “In many places on the shores one sees mass illegal wood felling, and extraction of precious metals directly in the mouth of the river which is prohibited by the Water Code.”
He adds that near some villages in the region, hundreds of hectares of forest is being felled near the river, and there are businesses extracting minerals, with new ones also being created.
He believes that the canyon will be saved if a national park is created however notes that the Programme for Development of the Ecological network in Ukraine and presidential decrees which envisage this, are not being implemented.
According to the Head of the environmental organization “Merry Dolphin”, Anna Kolomiyets, this not only places the natural environment of the area in jeopardy, but also put in question Ukraine’s fulfilment of its international agreements. She says that on the shores of the Dniester there are 100 endemic and relict plants, that is, ones that can be found nowhere else in Ukraine. There are also 11 breeds of animal protected by the Berne Convention.
The environmentalists assert that the creation of a national park is being hampered by the local authorities which defend the interests of the businesspeople who extract stone and fell forest.
Deputy Head of the Reserve land department of the Ministry for Environmental Protection Serhiy Matveyev agrees with part of the accusations. He says that they have difficulty exerting influence on the local authorities and that they therefore hold hundreds of meetings with village councils, the heads of districts. He adds that at the present time, they have documents for 40 percent of the territory of the Canyon. He says that the Ministry hopes to get the consent of all local councils in the valley by the end of the year.
Local officials deny the accusations, one – Ivan Chelesyuk, Head of the Borshchivsk Administration, claims that there is no unlawful activity and that all work according to licences. He claims that the problem is the lack of gas and that local residents fell the forest.
From a report at: