Over the past four years, the Kyiv Ecological and Cultural Center took part in 25 court cases and won 21 of them. For our country it is a striking result, because the environment is not on the first place in the value system of the ordinary citizen.
Director of the center Vladimir Boreyko told about how difficult it is to seek justice in a country where the majority of officials in authority are avid hunters, that Kiev Dolphinarium «Nemo» carries a lot of potential threats, that Ukraine violates international Berne Convention, continuing to hunt the wolf, and that the reserves, also have the second birthday.
— Vladimir, fishermen asked to thank you for the successful fight against poaching with electric rods!
— Indeed, throughout the spring and fall of 2012 we were able to subvert the system of creation and distribution of illegal electric rods — terrible poaching gun, which generates a current and kills all life within twenty meters: the young fish, and frogs, and beetles. After such a «fishing» all the water in the river is like distilled with a kettle, and even miraculously survived fish can not produce offspring.
It was quite a large Polish-Ukrainian enterprise with assembly plant in Rivne which has been working for ten years and supplying its illegal products online for Ukraine and Russia, Belarus and other countries. Though the price of fishing rods fluctuated around 2 thousand UAH. (250 USD), thousands of them have been sold! Together with our law enforcement bodies we closed assembly plant, two major websites that promote this kind of fishery were eliminated, hundreds of links on other sites were cleaned.
— How actively journalists help you with your environmental activities?
— Unfortunately, journalists tend to ignore environmental problems, it is not interesting or unclear for them. Especially when there is no sensationalism, «hot» facts, some shouting news.
However, I can think of a positive experience of cooperation with the media, when journalists helped environmentalists to win a court case about the Red Book of Ukraine. The problem is that under the law, every new edition of the Red Book should come out every 10 years — some of the animals and plants disappear, some appear. And in Ukraine, Red Book was not published for 16 years. We started to investigate what was the reason, and this is what we found out. It turns out that scientists have proposed to bring in a new edition all sturgeons (the previous Red Book includes only two sturgeons from 4) and all elks. Officials of State Fishery Committee were against including sturgeons and against elks — the State Forestry Committee. A Ministry of Natural Resources, as always, washed its hands of this saying, they will not publish the book because the issue is not solved!
We filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Cabinet of Ministers, and journalists gave us a very strong support. There were several joint pickets near the Ministry of Environment, a big press conference was organized. We started this case in May 2010 and in the fall the book has already been released, two volumes — «plants» and «animals." So in this case we did not wait for a court decision.
However, we were not able to achieve full implementation of our demands: if all sturgeon were listed in the Red Book, for elks only a moratorium on hunting was implemented. In this issue we were betrayed by the director of the Institute of Zoology, corresponding member Igor Akimov, the State Forestry Committee threw him a bone in the form of economic agreement: we will pay you, and you have to «count properly» how many elks are there in Ukraine. Therefore it was counted that there are «too many» elks for the Red Book…Actually, the Red Book of Ukraine «swells» almost every day, but it’s a different story.
I want to note that we received support from the International Risk Reduction Foundation (head of the foundation — Vladimir Kosterin), in particular, several press conferences in UNIAN were organized. This is important because often only public resonance can help to prevail justice in environmental matters.
— Which of the recent victories in the courts is the most memorable to you?
— Perhaps a case of saving the reserve Rastochie in Lviv region. It all started with a completely stupid order signed by the Minister Tabachnyk about the closure of the reserve, which was subordinated to the Ministry of Education. Officials wanted to disband the Rastochie and somehow include it as a department of the Lviv Forestry University.
Reserve staff, knowing that such an order is being prepared, over half a year were running to Kiev different departments, in the very Ministry of Education and the Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Nature, wrote to the prosecutor all efforts were useless.
When order was issued and the liquidation committee established, only then they came to us. Just on the eve of the new, 2011, we filed a lawsuit. We understood that we can not lose a day because, the land will be sold, property would be stolen, etc. (I must say that every Ukrainian reserve is unique, regarding Rastochie it represents low mountains, stretching from north to south, with its unique flora and fauna, with a huge lake and the so called Royal rocks where traditionally Polish kings rested.)
So, the first session was held at the end of December, and the next — was scheduled for January 13. It lasted about three hours and ended with our victory. When the judge read out the verdict on the abolition of the decree of Minister of Education, workers of reserve were crying like children. I can understand them: they live in a small town of Ivano-Francovo, they worked all their life in the reserve, there are 67 people, where this people with higher education are going to find a job today? Their excitement was just indescribable from the fact that there were people who helped them for free. In mid-January they phoned our organization, congratulated with the second anniversary of the victory, said that now this date in the reserve is a kind of birthday. Especially because for the past year they received a certificate from UNESCO which makes the reserve part of a joint Ukrainian-Polish reserve Rastochie.
Revealing that the Ministry of Natural Resources did not participate in the hearing, and the officials of the Academy of Sciences said that such issues should be resolved through negotiations, not through the courts. In short, no one believed in the victory. Many tried to dissuade reserve administration to file a lawsuit, in fact authorities of Lviv Forestry University made pressure on the reserve administration, also the local Security Service of Ukraine, the tax office, the employees were not given salary for six months… In short, the administrative resources were working very rough, but, fortunately, we won.
— To your opinion, what are todays the most urgent environmental problems that require an immediate response, the adoption of laws? The most glaring?
— Glaring — everything! First, the public should have more rights (we have already applied the fifth bill on this subject!)to draw up minutes, to sue (and, regardless of where NGO is geographically registered), and not only for harm as it is regulated by law now, but also for potential threats.
Our legislation is very bad, not developed. For example, the Forest Code needs to abolish private ownership of the forests, remove rules by which the foresters themselves have the right to increase the area to be cut down, etc. Or another flashy fact: recently fishers managed to adopt a law that takes away control functions from the Ministry of Nature…
Now Ukrainian legislation developes in totally opposite way to ecologisation. Good laws have been adopted in early 90’s, when the democratic tendencies were planned. Now the complete stagnation has come, the concerned authorities try to adopt only that laws which tey need worsening existing and Ministry of Natural Resources defends its position very weakly, because the officials working there do their own business.
One more example. There is an international Berne Convention, which states that the wolf is endangered and must be protected, and Ukrainian law considers it harmful animal which must be shot. We have already won two courts, which alleviated the plight of wolves, it was banned to hunt pregnant wolves, small cubs, but, in fact, the hunting law itself needs to be changed. We have already filed one bill, it passed the expert management, the first reading, but, unfortunately, has not been voted on second reading. In the Parliament there were many hunters among deputies of the Party of Regions, which probably really read the law and did not vote.
Ordinary hunters and foresters this also benefit because you can hunt all year: under the guise of hunting wolves, do legalized poaching. And on the market the skin of a wolf is worth about a thousand dollars.
— What are your plans for the near future?
— We will continue to fight against Kiev Dolphinarium «Nemo." The fact is that the dolphinarium has no working permission from the sanitary station, environmental inspection, building inspection, fire department. These agencies have repeatedly closed dolphinarium (there are acts of closing), but it still continues to work. Visitors do not know that the fire in dolphinarium can break out at any time, it can fall apart, people elementary may be infected with some muck…
We have already filed a lawsuit against the prosecutor’s office in Kiev Holosiivskyi district for inactivity, it pays no attention to violation of the law. This is an example of complete lawlessness, and not somewhere in the periphery but in the center of a European capital. According to our information, this business is supported by one of the mayor Popov deputies, and we all know that dolphinarium brings rabid income.
German ecologists who visited dolphinariums in Kiev and Donetsk, were shocked by the conditions in which dolphins live there. Notably, in the same Germany recently on the initiative of environmental organizations six of the nine existing dolphinariums were closed. In Ukraine, in addition to the fifteen existing dolphinariums, there are plans to build two more in the near future, one in Kiev and one in the Kiev region. So, for our fight there is no end!