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Natural reserve land under the protection of the local authorities defenceless

14.12.2009    source:
The procedure over the natural reserve fund suffers from a lack of clarity regarding those involved in making areas reserve land; considerable dependence of the final decision on the interests of the local authorities; and the effective lack of liability for inflicting damage to natural treasures formally under State protection

  Since independence, Ukraine has developed a certain legislative base and the relevant divisions of the civil service for the preservation of biological and landscape diversity and development of natural reserves. By ratifying in 1994 the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ukraine joined an international system aimed at creating a pan-European econetwork.

  However the procedure in Ukraine for organizing the natural reserve fund and supporting its status suffers from the lack of clarity regarding those involved in making areas reserve land; considerable dependence of the final decision on the interests of the local authorities; and the effective lack of liability for inflicting damage to natural treasures formally under State protection.

  The author cites the following causes for the present unsatisfactory situation, pointed out by himself or other colleagues during discussions:

  The dependence of the inspection services on the local authorities;

  The lack of specific liability of executive bodies for their violations of environmental legislation;

  Poor level of awareness among the public and the staff of inspection services regarding biodiversity;

  When land sites are being developed or economic activity carried out, no assessment and analysis of measures for protecting biodiversity is made;

  When it comes to lower-category reserve lands, the inspection services frequently take a far too benign view of destructive activities by business enterprises and members of the public;

  Demoralization of society under the weight of socio-economic problems, corruption, poor level of public awareness and information;

  The Ministry for Environmental Protection’s orientation should be less on reducing manmade pressure on the human environment, and more on preserving those few populations of rare organisms which remain.

Mykola Korobko points out that these and other comments were made 4 years ago, in 2005, yet there have been no improvements since that time.

The Law on the Natural Reserve Land Fund of Ukraine (Article 60 § 2) places responsibility for protecting reserve areas and constructions on business enterprises, institutions and organizations, while the local authorities are supposed to promote the protection and preservation of such territory and constructions of the natural reserve land fund.

  The author sees the ideology implicit in this norm of the Law as reflecting the tragedy seen in the treatment as reserve land of the majority of areas which should suppose environmental equilibrium in Ukraine. Business enterprises, institutions and organizations, forced under pressure from local authorities to take natural reserve land areas under their maintenance, without the relevant motivation, funding or knowledge, they generally fulfil their task in a purely formal way, forgetting the treasure in their keep. The local authorities do not bear proper liability either for the state of the areas. At the same time, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and its divisions have reconciled themselves to the situation and do not take any measures to rectify the situation and don’t file law suits to have those responsible made to answer.

  The author cites as an example the situation in Kryvy Rih where there are 13 items in the natural reserve fund, with three being of national significance.  According to a recent press conference give by the Head of the Environment Department of the City Executive, within the framework of a Programme to deal with the Environmental Crisis, functioning since 2000, almost 70 million UAH have been spent on preventing contamination of water objects; liquidating the consequences of flooding, etc. No funding was fund for items of the natural reserve land fund. The Head of the Department called their state satisfactory, although he did note that a geological natural monument is being polluted by domestic waste, with spontaneous rubbish dumps being set up there, etc. He also mentioned that adjacent areas are being used as private vegetable gardens, however the author notes that the situation is in fact more serious since the territory of one reserve landscape park is also being used in this way. The City Department of Urban Construction and Architecture, aside from holding the protection documents takes no part in the functioning of the reserve land. The city authorities have unlawfully allowed so-called recultivation of the surface of geological layers for dacha and plantation development, destroying unique and distinctive layers of crystal strains. At the same time areas of many hectares which have biological or landscape value remain outside the reserve area. Reserve areas thus destroyed remain registered with the Ministry for Environmental Protection as existing for decades.  The author cites two other similar cases.

  Concerned members of the public warn of the danger that natural reserve land fund areas will be destroyed, however the relevant environmental services authorized by the State make a mere pretence of the appropriate activities.

Another example of lack of clarity regarding status is seen in the landscape reserve area “Inhuletsky steppe”, spanning 4 thousand hectares. Its existence has been under threat from the outset back in 1992. Its reserve status was only finally recognized in 2002. Yet the authorities have been unable to this day to define its boundaries.  All appeals from the concerned public result in meaningless fob-offs based on the conclusions of regional inspection services without the necessary knowledge of the science of biodiversity.

Key problems remain:

1.  The lack of a system of reserve creation for objects of the natural reserve land fund;

2.  Lack of liability of the local bodies of local self-government for causing the degradation of objects of the natural reserve land fund under their control.

3.  the priority of authority of local authorities before central bodies regarding the status of objects of the natural reserve land fund for particularly precious natural creations;

4.  Low professional level of environmental body staff;

5.  The lack of reaction from the Ministry for Environmental Protection in the legislative area on creating the proper conditions for preservation of the objects of the natural reserve land fund, and the conflict of its interests in the area of nature protection and resource obtaining activities.

From an address given by Mykola Korobko, Head of the Ukrainian Environmental Organization “Zeleny Svit” [“Green World”  on 27 November 2007

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