Human rights in Ukraine 2011. XIX. ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS
1. Right to safe environment
It is not for the first time that we have to point out the absence of main source of summarized information with regards to environmental safety in Ukraine, i.e.the national reports on natural environment status. These reports ought to be published on the annual basis. As it is, fragmentized and often contradictory environmental information is gathered from dispersed reports of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, other agents of environmental monitoring, and control, law-enforcement and statistical account bodies, mass media.
Despite the decreased levels of economic activity, the volumes of hazardous emissions into the air and of discharges into the bodies of water do not decrease. The largest number of exceeding the norms in 2011 was registered in the machine-building industries and metallurgy — 32%. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources registers constant increase in the level of urban air pollution in all the regions of Ukraine. Most significant excess was noted in maximum permissible concentrations of formaldehyde. The quality of air with respect to formaldehyde contents is the worst in the eastern region. In the cities of Lisychansk, Mariupol, Uzhgorod, Mykolayiv the contents of formaldehyde in the air exceeds the maximum permissible concentrations five times. The content of nitrate dioxide is two times higher than the maximum permissible concentrations in Zaporizhzhya, Mariupol, Makiivka, Khmelnitsky and Lutsk. The content of dust in the air is two times higher than the maximum permissible concentrations in Kryvy Rih and Alchevsk.
State Committee for Statistics confirms that the density of emissions from stationary sources per 1 square kilometer of the territory remains unprecedentedly high in Ukraine, reaching the indicator of 6.8 tons of hazardous matter, and 90.1kg — per capita. In some regions these indicators are even higher — 7.6 times in Donetsk oblast’(3.4 times per capita), 4.3 and 3.1 times respectively — in Dnipropetrovsk oblast’,
2.8 and 2.5 times respectively in Luhansk oblast’ and 1.8 and 1.4 times — in Ivano-Frankivsk oblast’. The highest technogenic load — over 100 thousand tons of emissions — was registered in the atmospheric air of Kryvy Rih, Marioupol, Zelenodolsk, Luhansk and Burshtyn.
Industrial enterprises in Kyiv emitted 34.3 tons of pollutants per 1 sq. km, exceeding mean country factor five times. In terms of the volumes of transport emissions, non-efficient use of water, accumulation of non-sorted waste Kyiv also ranks first among other big cities of Europe, and is rightfully considered the most polluted capital on the continent.
As compared to the last year, the increase in emissions into the atmosphere was registered in 17 regions. It was most significant in Crimea (6 thousand tons or 22,7% more), Rivne oblast’ (3,0 thousand tons or 29,7%more), Zaporizhzhya oblast’(36,7 thousand tons., or 20,3% more), Dnipropetrovsk (141,0 thousand tons or 17,8% more), Ternopil (2,2 thousand tons or 13,6% more), Odessa (3,3 thousand tons or 12,7%more) oblast’s.
Instances of significant water pollution were registered in the rivers of Dnister and Dnipro basins. According to the data provided by State Water Agency, in 2010 14.8 billion cubic meters of water were taken out of the natural reservoirs, which is 2,5% more than in the last year. 15% of the whole volume of water was lost in the course of transportation. 1,7 billion cubic meters of waste water, i.e. almost a quarter of the whole sewerage volume, were discharged into water reservoirs. Almost 18% of the polluted re-circulated water (0,3 billion cubic meters) were returned to the water reservoirs without any treatment. It is 15,6% (42,0 million cubic meters) more than in 2009.
In the second half of 2011 many regions of the country, especially in the West and in the South, were subject to abnormal meteorological and climatic phenomena — between August and December the weather was extremely dry and warm. State Committee for Hydrometeorology informed that in October-November only 4–18% of the average monthly precipitations were registered in the basins of Dnister, Prut and Siret rivers. Similar phenomenon was observed in Southern Bug basin and in the Crimea.Prolonged low-water period, not experienced for decades, set in on the rivers. In many villages of Chernivtsy, Trans-Carpathian, Ivano-Frankivs, Ternopil and Khmelnitsky oblast’s water supply systems were seriously threatened — potable and domestic use water had to be imported, and its quality often was poor. According to the Ministry of Regional Development, in 261 settlements in Ukraine the water supply systems fail to meet the normative requirements. It means that in many cases the authorities prove incapable of ensuring the right of people to the drinking water in sufficient quantities.
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources registers permanently high levels of radio nuclides’ concentrations in surface water samples in the areas, affected by the Chornobyl NPP disaster, i. e. of Cesium-137 in Azbuchin lake, Strontium-90 in Hlyboke lake.
The Ministry of Extraordinary Situations informs that the number of environmental threats, caused by both natural and technogenic factors, e.g. sliding, inundations, karst activization, is increasing. The largest number of slides was registered in Odessa and Trans-Carpathian oblast’ and in Crimea. In Odessa, this number reached 5835, 487 slides among them are active. 156 slides are located within the boundaries of developed areas, activization of 101 slides threaten industrial units. The slides at the shoreline between Lebedivka and Serhyiivka are the most active.
In 2011 the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources finally updated the information on the major environmental pollutants in Ukraine.The situation did not change significantly since the publication of the former list, 4 years earlier. Looks like such enterprises as Dniprodzerzhinsk Dzerzhinsky plant, “Zaporizhstal” plant, Mariupol “Azovstal” and Illich industries, Kryvy Rih “ArselorMittal”, Burshtyn TPP etc. will remain for good on the “Black list of 10 major pollutants”. A reasonable question arises: what is the role of the government, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Prosecutor’s office on environmental protection in amending this situation, which has persisted for years? What are the plans of reducing the negative impact of monstrous pollutants on environment and public health? Who will make them pay for the environmental damages?
The arguments of the Ministry in establishing the environmental safety criteria, under which mainly the scope of emissions and discharges of the operating facilities is taken into account, also seem dubious. The country territory is covered by a whole lot of abandoned industries, which do not have an owner, but remain very dangerous. Somehow they are left beyond the scope of Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources’ attention. For example, former coal-mining and chemical enterprises in Kalush never made it to the lists of major pollutants, despite the fact that in the years 2008–2009 this area was proclaimed a zone of environmental disaster. Facilities of the abandoned former “Prydniprovsky chemical plant” in Dniprodzerzhinsk are not mentioned in the list of “100 pollutants” either. In the years 40 — 50-ies of the last century it was here that uranium raw matter for the nuclear weapons was produced. According to Accounting Chamber, the Ministry of Finance in former years ignored the proposals of the specialized parliamentary committee concerning the funding of measures aimed at ensuring environmental safety of the said plant’s facilities. As a result, liquidation work was underfunded by 20 mln UAH. In its turn, the Ministry of Fuel and Energy, violating the acting law, dispersed and wasted 26.7 mln UAH, i. e. about 70% of budget money, allocated for priority measures in PCP facilities.
The government and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources quote significant growth in the volumes of pesticides rendered harmless in 2011 as one of the major achievements. In 2011 about 7 175,8 tons of waste pesticides (91,8% of total amount) were taken out of Ukraine. 175 mln UAH were allocated from the budget funds to remove and dispose of hexachlorobenzene waste, accumulated by former Kalush and Horlivka industries. 2 350 tons of these toxic compounds is to be taken out of Ukraine and de-contaminated. As of today, 1 650 tons of hexachlorobenzene are ready for removal; 1 575 tons have been taken out already.. In total, over the last year and a half 33.3 thousand tons of hazardous waste has been taken out of Ukraine for decontamination.It is 6.7 times more, than for all the years of existence of independent Ukraine. .
Meanwhile, one can’t help noticing serious discrepancies in the assessment of technogenic impact on environment, offered by various agencies. Theses discrepancies give grounds for justified doubts as to the objectivity of state environmental monitoring as such. Thus, according to data provided by the State Committee for Statistics, as of January 1, 2011, 13.3 billion tons of waste is accumulated in the special plots and at the enterprises’ premises. At the same time, at the interagency meeting in the General Prosecutor’s Office “On the Legal Basis for Waste Management” another figure — 35 billion tons of waste of all types — was quoted.
According to the information concerning environmental crimes, submitted by the State Environmental Inspection to the General Prosecutor’s Office, 245 criminal cases were filed over the year.. The prosecutor’s checks of adherence to the acting law in the land use by public companies, educational establishments and scientific entities, revealed numerous facts of non-sanctioned land appropriation based on the decisions of local authorities etc. As a result, over the last three years, over35 thousand ha of agricultural lands were illegally taken out of use .
On General Prosecutor’s Office order, control checks concerning hazardous waste management were completed by November, 2011. They revealed increase in illegal disposal of the waste in the agricultural lands, forests, water and natural reserves fund. 154 criminal cases, 534 protests, over 5 thousand statements were filed by the prosecutors over the current year. For example, the prosecutor of Holosyiv district, Kyiv, filed a criminal case concerning contamination of a land plot with waste of diverse morphological structure by a private company, which caused losses for the country amounting to a substantial sum of 491 mln UAH. However, no clarification was provided as to the reimbursement of damages in this case.
In general, the level of indemnities paid by the culprits for the environmental damage, caused by them, is ludicrously low. Thus, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources published official information to the effect that, based on the results of control checks carried out by the State Environmental Inspections, the violators of environmental law, were obliged to pay about 1.2 billion UAH in 2011, and only 75 mln UAH (or 7%!) were actually retrieved!
While this chapter was being written, the text of Supreme Rada Ombudsman on Human Rights’ Report on observance and protection of human rights in Ukraine in 2011, has not been made public on the new Ombudsman’s web-portal. Therefore, no judgment on relevance of environmental issues in it can be made.Scarce official announcements made by Ombudsman do not contain any information as to the observance of environmental rights specifically.
Summing up, it makes sense to once again stress the non-priority status of environmental policies within the system of Ukrainian official politics and total neglect of environmental rights of public in Ukraine. Oligarchic power traditionally cultivates a primitive resource-consuming model of development. This model is non-competitive due to its raw-material and industrial orientation, which entails the waste of natural capital, both in production and in consumption. These tendencies become more and more threatening, considering the unprecedented rate of waste accumulation, pollution and exhaustion of resources; technogenic transformation of territories and the level of its negative impact on human health. Detrimental trend in economic development combined with feudal forms of governance, accumulation and distribution with increasing legal arbitrariness deprive the country of European prospective and lead to mass and systematic violations of its’ citizens’ rights.
2. Right of access to environmental information
For the umpteenth time in this research we want to draw attention to the fact that over many years the legal provisions defining the accessibility of environmental information have been ignored in Ukraine. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, as usual, is legging behind in preparing National Reports on the status of environment. At the end of 2011 the official web-portals of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and its Information and Analytical Center offered the National report for the year 2007.Over seven years, in violation of the law “On Natural Environmental Protection”, the report has not been submitted to the Supreme Rada for consideration; neither has it been published as a separate edition. The National report for 2011 neither has been submitted to the Parliament.
This year, same way as last year, we observe delays in making public special reports of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources — not a single new report appeared on its web-portal in 2011.The information on the site of Information and Analytical Center under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is also being updated with delays. In January 2012 only the quarterly bulletins on environmental situation for the second quarter of 2011 were made public.
The General Prosecutor’s Office, probably too busy with “witch-hunting” among the ranks of opposition, never managed to submit to the Parliament annual information on law and order status in the country over the years 2010–2011. Usually this information contains consolidated report concerning the violations of natural protection and environmental law.
The Ministry of Regional Development keeps ignoring the requirement of art. 9 of the Law “On Drinking Water and Water Supply”, under which a yearly “National Report on the Drinking Water Quality and Drinking Water Supply” should be devised. The latest report, known to us, dates back to 2006. Despite the information published in mass media, announcing the preparation of 2009 report, it proved impossible to find any reference to it on the Ministry site in January 2012.Even omniscient Google failed in trying to find the traces of National report on the Internet — indeed, it’s tough job to find something that never existed!
Meanwhile the Ministry of Extraordinary Situations of Ukraine this year complied with the requirements of respective Presidential Decree and made public well-substantiated “National report on the level of technogenic and natural safety in Ukraine in 2010”.
The site of State Inspection for nuclear regulation never updated the National report on the status of nuclear and radiation safety over the year. One can find, same as over the last year, only report for 2009 and all the reports starting from 1999. On EU recommendation the State Inspection devised and made public the National report of Ukraine on the results of “stress-tests” for the Ukrainian NPPS. Unfortunately, it is available in English only. .
After the law “On Accessibility of Public Information” was passed, some executive bodies demonstrate their desire to bring their own regulatory acts into conformity with legislative innovations. For example, the State Agency for land resources in August approved a new resolution, which banned restrictions in access to four categories of data concerning land resources. Thus, access to information contained in land logs, state registry of the property rights on land, land lease agreements, data on land availability and distribution in raions and cities, database for automated system of state land cadastre etc. was liberalized.
The State Forestry Committee, in its turn, having in the process of reorganizing changed its name to the State Agency for Forest Resources, left unchanged its tradition of secrecy and total confidentiality. In May 2011 the Agency passed an order with the list of data which are strictly confidential.This list includes the whole chapter on environmental information concerning forestry operations: paperwork on the projects for forestry development and organization, state forests cadastre, forests’ layouts at the oblast’ levels, forestation layouts at the individual forestries etc.
On familiarizing themselves with this order, the members of environmental NGO “Green World” came up with the number of questions as to its compliance with the legislation on accessibility of information. The organization, then, approached the forestry agency with the letter, requesting clarification as to which legal provisions underlie the decision to restrict access to the said categories of data; and, if the agency managers recognize that the contents of the order contradicts the law of Ukraine, pass the decision on its nullification. The Agency did not find grounds for order nullification , so that the “Green World” in November submitted the claim to the administrative court in Kyiv, demanding that court classifies the bizarre order as illegal.
Local state administrations neglecting the norms of basic nature protection law stubbornly refuse to publish the information on environmental situation in mass media subordinate to them. Last year Zaporizhzhya oblast’ state administration was the only exception. It made public on its web-portal “System of providing information on environmental situation”. Unfortunately, the information, contained in it, has not been updated since mid-2011. At the beginning of 2012 the site map of oblast’ state administration no longer showed the chapter on environmental situation..
The public discussion on the necessity of introducing public TV and broadcasting in Ukraine eventually came to a halt, although it is common knowledge that electronic media currently play a most active role in shaping public opinion and behavior. However, it is obvious, that totally commercialized electronic space offers no informational, educational or learning programs, which would form environmental vision and promote environmentally friendly life standards.
Instead, almost every commercial TV and broadcasting channel reveals the “Midas ears” of the Ukrainian oligarchs — the audience is served a distorted image of nature, society and human values in humans. The stereotypes of political scheming, violence, depravity, thoughtless consumerism, the picture of the world as an infinite set of material goods, used by individuals to the fullest satisfaction of their needs, are obsessively imposed on public. Under such predicament, the Internet space remains most free and dynamic medium. However, it remains inaccessible, especially for poor people, residing in peripheral areas, where local broadcasting network is rapidly gaining momentum.
Beyond any doubt, the electronic media should be controlled by the civil society. Without them, it is virtually impossible to exercise the right of access to socially significant information, including environmental issues, and, consequently, to fully enjoy all the other human rights.
3. Observance of the right to participate in environmental decision-making
3.1. Public discussion over the draft of the National plan for environmental protection
A public discussion over the draft of the ‘National Action Plan for Environmental Protection for the years 2011–2015” was launched in January and February, 2011, in compliance with the Strategy for National Environmental Policy in Ukraine, adopted last year.Public consultations, funded by the European Program of the “Renaissance” MF, were held in four rounds — in Lviv, Kirovohrad, Simferopol and Kharkiv, while final expert discussion took place in Kyiv. Representatives from 129 organizations attended the event.
At the beginning of the year some organizations assessed the results of the consultations on NAP as highly positive, despite the fact, that from the first stage it became obvious that bureaucrats from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Protection wanted to level the contents of the plan proposals as to the guarantees for accessibility of information and public participation in the decision-making, based on Aarhus Convention standards. Devious imitation of dialogue with public has deceived no one by May 2011, after censors from Cabinet of Ministers have worked over the NAP text. The government radically changed the structure of the documents and stroke out of the public discussion a number of key issues. Other NAP provisions were edited to change the meaning and consciously distort the outcomes of the plan implementation. This “neutered” version of the plan was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.
Over the year the Ministry of Environment and Natural Protection remained active in trying to get hold of 15-billion tranche from EU for the support of the Strategy for National Environmental Policy.At the beginning of 2012, though, failure to meet the deadlines for plan implementation became obvious.
3.2. Forum of Human Rights organizations: Assessment of environmental rights’ violations
On June16 the 5th Forum of Human Rights organizations took place in Kyiv. A Manifesto of human rights activists of Ukraine “Public against lawlessness”was adopted by consensus of the Forum’s 120 participants. A special chapter in it is dedicated to the environmental rights violations.
Forum participants stated that large part of Ukraine is in critical environmental condition. The main cause of the deepened environmental crisis is progressing “de-ecologization” of policy and public awareness. More and more often authorities demonstrate their incapacity in making the companies’ owners responsible for paying indemnities for damages in accordance with the principle “pollutants pay”. Therefore, exorbitant profits of the oligarchs, obtained through excessive exploitation of natural resources, turn into huge amounts of waste, pollution and exhaustion of natural environment.
First of all, concern is caused by large-scale violations of the art. 13 of the Constitution, under which land and other natural resources are the subjects of property law for. In reality, though, the real owners, i.e. Ukrainian citizens, are alienated from the national riches. The stealing of main national treasure — the land — continues. Territorial communities have no say in managing natural resources.
Ukraine, which 25 years ago suffered an unprecedented technogenic disaster, still has not drawn right conclusions from Chornobyl NPP catastrophe or Fukushima disaster. The authorities refuse point blank to revise the Energy Strategy, which stipulates construction of 22 nuclear reactors.
Human rights activists firmly believe that the issues of environmental protection and sustainable development are to be addressed as one of the main priorities in the Ukraine’s European integrations. The Presidential Program of economic reforms, however, is oriented at achieving economic goals, leaving both social and natural factors and citizens’ rights outside its focus of attention. No wonder, then, that Ukraine has been marked as the country systematically violating Aarhus Convention provisions.
Forum participants addressed the authorities requesting cardinal changes in the area of environmental rights observance. Under the Aarhus Convention all the key issues of national environmental policy and use of natural resources shall be addressed with public participation.
3.3. Public evaluation of the Ukrainian position at the UNO Climate Change negotiations
On the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Framework Convention countries in Durban (SAR), which lasted from November 28 till December 9, Ukrainian environmental organizations approached the Ministry of Environment and Natural Protection with the proposal to revise the official position of Ukraine in post-Kyoto period. Environmentalists for the umpteenth time called for embracing the goal of stabilizing the greenhouse gases emissions at 2008 level, or, in Kyoto protocol language, a thoroughly realistic goal of greenhouse gases emissions’ reduction to 55% of 1990 level in 2020 with further reductions. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Protection, however, remained unflinching in the issue of Ukrainian contribution into climate changes counteraction. The power prefers to play games, imitating “reduction”, which actually means increase in absolute figures of emissions on yearly basis, due to permanent excessive use of national resources .
Despite certain positive results, achieved at Durban conference, it demonstrated predominant egotistic interests of the countries-participants in the negotiations, their failure in reaching compromise and joining efforts to counteract climate changes.So far only European Union and Norway have demonstrated responsible attitude to climate changes.
In this situation Ukraine is trying to sit on two chairs at once: to benefit from old quotas transferred from the last century and Kyoto protocol mechanisms implementation, on the one hand, and to duck any responsibilities in real reduction of emissions, on the other.
3.4. Public protests against destruction of green recreational areas in Kharkiv
The protests of Kharkiv residents against destruction of green recreational areas went on for about a year. The ill-famed project of constructing a highway through the city Gorky Park were “supplemented” by others: construction of presidential residence in the same park, large-scope tree-cuttings within the framework of getting ready for 2012 Football Championship, seizure of “Berizky” grove in residential area “Pyatykhatky”.In November a group of environmentalists “Pechenehy” started to collect signatures under the appeal to organizers and sponsors of “Euro-2012”, proposing to draw lessons from the negative Kharkiv experience in order to avoid environment destruction in the cities which will host the championships in future.
3.5. Marches of Kyiv defenders
Looks like Kharkiv protesters’ activity this year became the source of inspiration for Kyivites. Over the year four marches for the defense of Kyiv, supported by over 10 NGOs, have been held in the capital. Participants protested against the Master Plan of Kyiv Development, which envisages construction development on over 700 ha of green areas, and demanded actions which would make it impossible to develop construction in Kyiv islands.
3.6. Public protests against natural resources’exploration
in the designed regional landscape park “Ingulets steppe”
An LTD company”Granite group” launched an exploration of granite deposit in the virgin steppe of Dnipropetrovsk oblast’. The work started without positive decision of the State Environmental Expertise, although it is obligatory for all mining companies. The public hearings, required by the law, were not held either. Illegal actions of the “Granite Group” owners and inertia of law-enforcement bodies led to the wave of public protests. Dozens of villagers threw themselves under bulldozers, trying to stop the destruction of natural environment.
3.7. Public protests against gypsum mining in the village of Pylypche
Conflict between the local community of Pylypche, Borshchyv raion, Ternopil oblast’, and private company “Skala-Inter” has been going on for years. This company is allegedly linked with the “Podilsky cement” company, which currently belongs to the foreign owner.By multiple violations of the law “Skala-Inter” managed to obtain the permit and a land plot of agricultural use for gypsum exploration in the village territory. The official expertise, full of numerous incongruences, was held without public consultations, provoking additional tension between the contenders, which in summer 2011 led to physical confrontation . While Pylypche village council for several years has been refusing to issue a decision on change of use and transfer of the land for deposit exploration, the Economic court illegally terminated its authority and disposed of the land in lieu of the territorial community. Presently the “Skala-Inter” refusal to provide the results of project environmental impact evaluation, supported by courts of two levels, is being appealed .
Pylypche conflict vividly illustrates Ukrainian reality in the sphere of natural resources’ use, with all typical characteristics: legal arbitrariness, omnipotence of money, power bodies’ servility, violation of citizens’ rights.
3.8. Public protests against motorized tours in national reserves’ territories
Last summer “jeeping-tours’ across the natural reserves’ territories of Ukraine were broadly covered by mass media. In July a team of jeepers, including president Yanukovych’s son, decided to take a motorized tour “Ukraine Trophy 2011” on 200 heavy SUVs across the lands of Polissya and Rivne natural reserves and Shatsk National park. Only due to numerous public protests, coordinated by the National environmental center of Ukraine, the route for the races was partly changed. In August, however, the jeepers had much fun spoiling and ruining natural forest landscapes in the landscape park “Berezhanske Opillya”. The management of the forestry and Berezhany did not dare to refuse a team of jeepers, supported by the highest authority in the country.
4. Exercise of the access to justice right in environmental issues
Isolated cases of successful court disputes in environmental issues for the benefit of citizens and NGOs were registered, same as last year.
In February 2011, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of art. 8 of the European Convention, concerning the right for protection of private and family life. The case included 11 individuals from Dubetsky, Naida, Vakiv and Havrylyuk families vs. Ukraine. Residents of Vilshyna settlement (Sokal raion, Lviv oblast’), located at the proximity to a coal mine, waste bank and coal processing plant, for 18 years have suffered adverse environmental effects of coal-mining industry: land, ground water and air pollution, sinking of the ground surface, dilapidation of buildings. Over this period authorities failed to resettle the families to a safe place, in spite of the respective court rulings. The European Court found absence of adequate state actions in resolving environmental problems and ruled that damages are to be paid to the claimants at the amount of 65 thousand Euros. The case was handled by attorney Ya.Ostapyk from Lviv..
On July 21 the European Court found that Natalia Hrymkovska’s rights were violated by Ukraine. The claimant lives in Krasnodon (Luhansk oblast’) in a residential quarter, through which a highway with intense truck traffic was laid by the local authorities’ decision. Judges in Strasbourg ignored Ms. Hrymkovska’s statements that the highway in question caused the diseases among her family members and cracks in her building. In fact, cumulative effect of noise, vibration, air and ground pollution had adverse effect on the claimant’s family life. Finally, the Court unanimously ruled that Ukraine violated art.8 of the Convention and obliged it to pay moral damages to Ms. Hrymovska at the amount of 10 thousand Euros.
Kyiv Environmental and Cultural Center and “Ecopravo-Kyiv” won a case concerning protection of “Roztochchya” Natural Preserve, in the Circuit Administrative Court in Kyiv (10.03.2011). The Court obliged the Ministry of Education to nullify its order, which stipulated “closing of the “Roztochchya” Natural Preserve as legal entity”.Oddly enough the notorious ministerial order was signed at the time when UNESCO finally approved the decision on setting up the trans-boundary Ukrainian-Polish bio-sphere preserve “Roztochchya”, with Ukrainian preserve being a part of it.
In October 2011 Circuit Administrative Court in Kyiv passed a ruling on “Ecologia-Pravo-Lyudyna” (Environment-Law-Individual) organization case against the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. The activists requested that the court qualifies inaction of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, which consisted in failure to make public results of state environmental expertise on its official web-site as illegal. The Court obliged the Ministry to publish 1 293 conclusions made over the years 2009–2011 on its official site within two months.The deadline passed, but by January 2012, same as last year, the site of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources contains nothing, but mere 6 conclusions of state expertise, dating back to the years 2006–2009 .
5. Evaluation of adherence to the international environmental convention
Year 2011 became the “Doom’s year” for Ukraine — it was recognized as failing to comply with three most significant international environmental conventions: Aarhus Convention, Espoo Convention and Kyoto Protocol to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
5.1. UN EEC Convention on access to information and public participation
in environmental decision-making and access to justice on environment-related issues
In June 2011, 12th anniversary of Aarhus Convention ratification and its inclusion into national legislation was celebrated. It is common knowledge that at the Convention’s meetings Ukraine has been recognized as a country which systematically violates its provisions. Public activists many a time criticized the actions of officials, who, in fact, distanced themselves from implementing the obligations stipulated by the Convention .
Fourth meeting of Aarhus Convention parties (Chisinau, July 2011) arrived at the conclusion that Ukraine still does not comply with the Convention. The meeting members regretted very slow Ukrainian progress in implementing the decisions of former meetings and once again warned Ukrainian government.
The meeting approached the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee with the proposal: if Ukraine fails to comply with earlier-made decisions, respective report shall be submitted to the fifth session of the meeting, so that appropriate decision on suspending special rights and privileges, granted to Ukraine by force of the Convention, can be made. So far similar sanctions were never used with regards to any country that ratified the Convention.
Although the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted Resolution No. 771 “On Approving Procedure for public participation in the making of decisions, which can affect the environment” at the time of the Fourth meeting of Aarhus Convention parties, the renowned public organizations, e.g. “Ecologia-Pravo-Lyudyna”, severely criticized it. The fact of the matter is that in the process of governmental approval of the draft “Procedure” with the participation of national and foreign environmental experts, radical changes have been introduced into the text. The competences of the “Procedure” were narrowed to a single decision (conclusions of the state environmental expertise), while the whole logically structured and well-grounded document was rendered meaningless.
As a result, in December 2011 the government was nominated for annual Anti-prize for gross violations of human rights (“Thistle of the year”), introduced by the Ukrainian Helsinki Union on Human Rights. For the first time the Anti-prize was granted for environmental rights’ violations. The Anti-Prize certificate read that the Cabinet of Ministers as the highest body of executive power, responsible for ensuring rights and freedoms of individuals and citizens, failed to ensure the due compliance with the respective provisions of the Aarhus Convention, as recognized by three meetings of the parties-participants to the Convention. The Cabinet of Ministers never set up appropriate legal and institutional mechanisms for the implementation of the Convention, having shifted the responsibility to the institutionally weak Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. Year in year out the government and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources have been concealing from Ukrainian general public the deplorable conclusions of international organizations, concerning Ukraine’s compliance with Aarhus Convention. More information on the “Thistle of the Year” can be found on Internet page of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group.
5.2. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
The status of implementation of obligations, undertaken by Ukraine, while ratifying the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is no better. Thus, on October 12, 2011the Committee on Supervising the Kyoto Protocol Requirements towards UN FC on Climate Change, made a decision on suspending the Kyoto Protocol flexible mechanisms in regards to Ukraine. The Committee decision concerned both selling the emissions quotas and joint implementation mechanism. It was called to life by incompliance of greenhouse gases emissions’ cadastre in Ukraine with international norms. The experts argued that the system of emissions calculations and absorption of greenhouse gases in Ukraine is not transparent enough, inconsequent, incomplete and imprecise. The main shortcomings found with Ukrainian cadastre included absence of energy balance of Ukraine, non-transparent system of forests’ inventory, confidentiality of data concerning many industrial processes.
5.3. Convention on Evaluation of Environmental impact
in trans-boundary context (ESPOO Convention)
On June 20–23 2011 Fifth session of ESPOO Convention meeting convened in Geneva. For the first time in the history of the Convention a warning was issued — to Ukraine, as an offending country. The session launched the international procedures within the frame of the Convention concerning the construction projects, i.e. III and IV blocks of Khmelnitsky NPP plant. Under the Convention, the construction of new reactors envisages consultations with all the stake-holders after evaluation of the environmental impacts. International monitoring bodies arrived at the conclusion that current violation of the Convention by Ukraine is linked to legislative issues. Law “On Regulations of Urban Development Activities” dramatically narrowed the list of grounds for environmental expertise, thus making trans-boundary evaluation of environmental impact of the projects, implemented in Ukrainian territory, hardly possible for Ukraine.
6. Legislative innovations presenting a threat of violations
of environmental rights
Over the last year the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted a number of legislative initiatives, which pose a threat to the environmental rights, specifically, to the right of participation in decision-making related to environmental issues, and the right to indemnities for environmental damages.
First of all, it concerns the laws “On Regulations of Urban Development Activities” and “On Introducing the Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On State Budget of Ukraine for 2011”
The Law “On Regulations of Urban Development Activities” restricted the citizens’ rights as to their participation in discussions on planning and developing the territories. It violates the Constitutional guarantees of inadmissibility of restricting the contents and scope of existing rights and freedoms while passing new laws. This law also significantly narrowed the list of grounds for environmental expertise of the urban development documentation, which became a logical next step in the ruination of the institute of state environmental expertise in Ukraine.
Finally, the law does not envisage sufficient responsibility for the negative effects, caused by the violations of construction norms, standards and rules in the process of project expertise and urban development construction.
The amendments, introduced to the law “On State Budget of Ukraine for 2011”, suspended the validity of some provisions of the law “On Status and Social Protection of the Citizens affected by the Chornobyl Disaster”, thus infringing their right to re-compensation in the legally defined amount, for the health damages, suffered as a result of environmental disaster.
Finally the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution, charging the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources with the task to design the draft law “On Invalidating the Law ”On National Program for Setting Up National Environmental Network of Ukraine for the years 2000–2015”. The decision on Program termination manifested deplorable lack of professionalism of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, incapable of fully understanding either its importance in preserving the national legacy, or the consequences of its decision for health and well-being of the present and future generations. The Cabinet of Ministers’ decision is an attempt to destroy the last natural oases still existing in Ukraine. Only due to the numerous public protests and reaction of Parliamentary Committee and President, this odious provision was taken out of the resolution.
7. Conclusions and recommendations
1. President of Ukraine should pass a decree “On Urgent Measures for Increasing the Priority Status of Environmental Policy”.
2. The Cabinet of Ministers should develop a draft Strategy of integrating the Aarhus Convention provisions into the national legislation.
3. The Cabinet of Ministers should convoke an “Interagency Work Group for the implementation of the Aarhus Convention provisions in Ukraine”, headed by one of the vice-prime ministers.
4. The Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources should elaborate draft laws on introducing amendments to Land, Forest and Water Codes of Ukraine, taking into account provisions of international environmental conventions, sustainable development principles, as well as principles of integral management of natural resources
5. The Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources should elaborate draft laws on introducing amendments to the laws “On Environmental Expertise”, On Regulations of Urban Development Activities”, which would rehabilitate the concept of environmental expertise and evaluation of the environmental impacts; offering information to public and guaranteeing its participation in this activity.
6. The Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources should elaborate draft law “On Public TV and Radio Broadcasting”.
7. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources should prepare and make public “National Reports on Environmental Situation in Ukraine” for the years 2008–2011.
8. The Cabinet of Ministers should adopt the resolution on procedure for access to environmental information.
9. The Cabinet of Ministers should finalize and approve the Strategy and National Action Plan for sustainable development education.
“Environmental rights” chapter is prepared by Olexander Stepanenko, Board member of UHHRU, executive director of ENGO “Green World”, Head of public organization “Helsinki initiative — XXI”.
Ukraine: reviews, bulletins and environmental reports — http://ecobank.org.ua/GovSystem/EnvironmentState/Reviews/Pages/default.aspx
Analytical report of the State Committee for Statistics “Natural Environment in Ukraine in 2010” http://ukrstat.gov.ua/operativ/operativ2011/ns_rik/analit/arhiv.htm
Study The Economist Intelligence Unit, http://bbc.co.uk/ukrainian/news/2011/04/110414_kyiv_ecology_az.shtml
Considered by the Accounting Chamber Collegiate “Local Chornobyl ” with large-scope threats” http://ac-rada.gov.ua/control/main/uk/publish/article/16736847
Order of the State Committee for Land Resources of 29.08.2011 No. 549 “On introducing the changes into the list of data considered confidential, which are governmental property and are considered classified information with restricted availability
The Order of the State Agency of the Forest Resources of Ukraine of May 26, 2011, No. 196 with the List of data constituting classified information in the State Agency of the Forest Resources of Ukraine http://dklg.kmu.gov.ua/forest/control/uk/publish/article
The letter of the “Green World” No. 10–09 of September 16, 2011, to the Head of the State Agency of the Forest Resources of Ukraine V. Syvets.
The State Agency of the Forest Resources of Ukraine response to the Green World” of 28.09.2011, Nos. 11–34/ 5615 — 11 signed by the deputy Head I. Shyshov
In the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine the Plan was rewritten, http://mama-86.org.ua/index.php/uk/ecologization/ecointegration-news/263-neap.html
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources response of 23.12.2011, No. 25211/10/10-11 to the appeal of the Work Group NUO on Climate Change.
Official press-release of UN FC CC in English http://unfccc.int/files/press/press_releases_advisories/application/pdf/pr20111112cop17final.pdf
“Villagers defend the steppe throwing themselves under excavators”. http://maidan.org.ua/static/news/2011/ 1312465986.html
O. Stepanenko Appeal to the Supreme specialized court of Ukraine for civil and Criminal procedures re Decision of Ternopil Appellation Court of 06.12.11, case No. 22-ц-1714 and Decision of Borshchyv raion court of 26.10.11 y. on case No. 2-607/11 requesting their invalidation
Dubetska v. Ukraine, No. 30499/03, http://hr-lawyers.org/index.php?id=1303385169
Grimkovskaya v. Ukraine, No. 38182/03, http://hr-lawyers.org/index.php?id=1321877343
The Cabinet of Ministers’ of Ukraine Resolution of June 22, 2011, No. 704 “On decreasing the number and merging of state target programs”.