Environmental safety is the basis of national and global security. The risks associated with a violation of the ecological balance of territories and the consequences of man-made disasters are among the key ones due to losses (human, financial, etc.). For Ukraine, one of the hot topics is the impact of the environmental factor on the duration and quality of life of citizens.
«The average indicator of life expectancy in Ukraine is 10-15 years lower than that in developed countries. Improving the life expectancy and quality of life of Ukrainians should be a priority of state policy. Focus on the right goal will consolidate power and society to carry out more effective modernization of the country. Ecology as an integrating factor should permeate all spheres of public administration. International practice of protecting rights in the field of environmentally sound development», – says the head of the Risk Reduction Fund Vladimir Kosterin.
To influence the public on the environmental situation and solve long-term problems that have a direct impact on the health of Ukrainians, the Risk Reduction Fund has implemented a program to protect the constitutional rights of citizens to a safe environment for health and life.
Together with the head of the Zelena Varta organization, the head of the Imperative Plus law firm, the lawyer Oleksandr Lupeyko in the Kyiv region, the most typical problems for Ukraine were selected. Coal-fired thermal power plants, solid waste landfills, industrial facilities with increased man-made danger, poultry farms with no waste systems – which for many years have violated environmental legislation, as well as the rules for operating enterprises.
One of the illustrative cases is the courts on the consequences of a fire at an oil depot located not far from the capital, in the Vasilkovsky district. «As you know, in June 2015, a fire broke out at the oil depot of the BRSM, 6 firefighters died, and the area around the base was contaminated with other toxic substances. We aimed to show that “everyone has the right to a safe for health and has a living environment” is not just a declaration, but a real constitutional principle. Based on this, we have filed more than 600 claims for compensation for moral damage», – said Oleksandr Lupeyko.
European directives such as “polluter-pays” and the environmental responsibility of polluting enterprises, “Imperative Plus” have collected an evidence base based on research by the Institute of Public Health. A.N. Marzeeva NAMS of Ukraine. And the examination of the impact on the victims (according to the Erdelevsky methodology) – was able to substantiate the need for material compensation for the residents of the Vasilkovsky district. In this regard, Oleksandr Lupeyko emphasized: «We acted on the example of English lawyers who filed lawsuits against one of the British oil depots, where there was a fire similar to that of the BRSM. Then the company-owner admitted its responsibility for the fire, and an amicable agreement was reached in court. The people who lived around the tank farm received moral compensation, and resources for the remediation of the territory to reduce environmental risks were also the culprit of the fire».
The trials lasted for several years, many representatives of the judicial branch of power were "hostile" to the case. The first victory was achieved in 2016, when a young judge made a decision in the interests of the village representatives. «Baloban Valentin made a revolutionary decision on compensation for moral damage to people. A technogenic factor was recognized as a consequence of negligence and violations in the operation of the tank farm. In particular, the investigation established that one of the causes of the fire was the production of gasoline by handicraft equipment. After lengthy legal battles, we made our way to the Supreme Court of Ukraine. Our team has defended 600 residents and not a single case has been lost. At the same time, all my expenses were on our team. Now all 600 cases have been won with the verdicts of the Supreme Court of Ukraine (February-March 2020), which confirmed our legal position», –added Oleksandr Lupeyko.
Now the Imperative Plus team is working on the procedural plane to improve compensation in the amount of 50-70 thousand UAH for the execution of court decisions, business trials in the Obukhovsky district court of the Kyiv region.
Despite the length of the proceedings, the cases won and the human rights issues raised are the public's contribution to the development of judicial and legal protection mechanisms in Ukraine, as well as the strengthening of constitutional norms on the environmental rights of citizens and the state's obligations to pursue an effective environmental policy.