The series of the final meetings of the “Dumaidan: Preserving Green Areas in Cities and Towns. Proposals” was held during the International Documentary Film Festival Docudays UA. The invited activists submitted a number of proposals during the discussion.
Lawyers and environmental experts presented their own view on amendments to legislation, as well as the concept of state deregulation in the environmental field. The first meeting with the topic “Do we need to amend legislation and regulatory documents in the field of urban development and settlements’ welfare?” was held on 25 March 2017. During the meeting, Olena Sapozhnikova, a lawyer and analyst of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, presented a final video of “Dumaidan” and recalled that the meetings were held in seven cities of Ukraine; environmental activists proposed more than 300 amendments to the proposed draft amendments to environmental legislation.
Svitlana Bondarenko, a representative of the “Samopomich” [Self Help] association in Kyiv, promised to help activists of “Dumaidan” in their work on the bills.
Mariia Mendzhul, a representative of the Carpathian Human Rights Agency “Vested”, said that decentralization in the field of environmental powers, conservation and protection of green areas was extremely necessary.
‘This will contribute to the greater cohesion of local communities and increase the efficiency of the green area’s preservation. If decisions on deforestation have not been adopted by higher-level authorities, but by local authorities, they would think about whether to vote for it, because people would soon elect them,’ said Mariia Mendzhul.
Serhii Zinchenko, an editor of “Promin Prosvity” [Ray of Enlightenment] (Kryvyi Rih), said that local authorities and partners from Poland revived the Saksahan River. He clarified that these environmental activists were in contact with local representatives of the “Samopomich” Party.
Mariia Tsypiaschuk, a coordinator of the public reception of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, said that the transfer of powers to local authorities had certain risks, especially for green areas.
‘Next to my house flows the Ustia River. Local activists conducted a study to strengthen its banks. But corruption means that large parts of its banks were given into private ownership, so the efforts of activists had led to nothing,’ said Mariia.
According to Mrs. Tsypiaschuk, advanced environmental powers to local authorities could lead to the situation that for the corrupt it would be easier to negotiate with them.
Ihor Melnyk, a representative of the Public Council of Podolsk District, spoke about his experience with community initiatives on the example of combating developers in the Syretskyi Grove in 2014. In addition, the community received funds under the program of the participatory budget to save the Shevchenko oak.
Vasil Ahafonov, a representative of the NGO “Green Front” from Kharkiv, said that the transfer of power to the level of local communities was not deregulation, but self-regulation.
‘But in order to achieve real success in this area, it is necessary to adopt a new code of urban development’, said Vasil Ahafonov.
Arkadiy Bushchenko, lawyer and executive director of UHHRU, believes that laws alone do not work; they simply regulate the activities carried out by people. Laws are also needed for deregulation.
‘The authorities have a certain distrust regarding the ability of communities to take control of what happens in their territories because there is no culture of self-regulation. In addition, we have a tradition of “a good king”, who will figure out and organize everything,’ said Arkadiy Bushchenko.
According to the lawyer, that was not the time to give all the levels of state environmental agencies to local communities. On the other hand, he said that only local communities could quickly respond to threats to the environment.
‘So the task of the deputies is to create laws that allow local communities to exercise effective control because sometimes they cannot solve problems in the courts of his district or village for years,’ said Arkadiy Bushchenko.
On March 26, there was a discussion on the topic ‘Do we need to amend by-laws in the filed of cities and towns greening?’, and on March 27 “Do we need to amend the structure of government environmental agencies?” Then, the theme of March 28 was: ” Do we need to change the order of delegation in the field of environmental NGOs: maintenance, security, etc.?”, and of March 29 – “Do we need changes in environmental inspections’ work?” Finally, on March 30 the topic: ” Do we need to change the state budget in environmental issues?” was discussed, and the final meeting was held.
Oleh Perehon, Head of the Coordination Council of NGO “Green Front”, at the meeting on March 29 showed how activists could react to the felling of trees in urban areas, in particular – in Kharkiv forest park by the example of his photographs. Vladyslav Balynskyi, an activist of NGO “Green Leaf” from Odesa, showed his photographs that he made during rescue actions of trees on the French Boulevard. Local authorities decided to extend the street, and, such a way, to destroy the trees that grew along the road. Once a tree was cut down, activists planted the same trees in the same place.
Oleh Perehon said that during 2013, reforms of environmental inspections took away right to intervene. That greatly complicated their work.
‘An inspector can now respond to environmental crime only after he or she gets the permission of officials. This is very dangerous, so we need to establish a body to respond to such crimes rapidly, which should be professional enough and well staffed. Currently, the entire region employs 19 people. This can be solved if to involve public environmental inspectors. There are interested NGOs,’ said Oleh Perehon.
At the meeting of March 30, Oleksandr Stepanenko, a representative of environmental and humanitarian association “Green World”, told about the double victory in court over Chortkiv City Council, which twice adopted the general plan of the city, having a negative opinion of state ecological expertise. The claims were related to green areas of the city, whose fate was under the question in the plan. Oleksandr Stepanenko also drew attention to the neglected state of parks in Ternopil Region. Local authorities are in the process of reconstruction; they are going to build a parking area and a dance floor instead of one park, because the work of nature conservationist initiatives and of lobbyist commercial organizations overlaps. According to Oleksandr Stepanenko, environmental funds are used very inefficiently.
Olha Bozhko, Head of public service management of the Department of landscaping and utilities of the Ministry of Regional Development, said that the Ministry of Environment blocked many environmental initiatives of her department. That is why the Ministry of Regional Development is interested in the amendments offered by the activists of “Dumaidan”. According to Olha Bozhko, the proposed amendments in the law should be legalized not through the Ministry of Environment, but through the Parliament.
During the meeting, the activists of “Dumaidan” agreed to jointly promote further amendments to environmental legislation to gain the support of deputies in the parliament and change our legislation.
Organizers of the project “Dumaidan – 2016: Preserving Green Areas in Towns and Villages” are the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, the International Charitable Organization “Environment – Law – Human”, the NGO Center for Legal and Political Research “SIM”, the Environmental Humanitarian Association “Green World“, and the NGO “Green Front.” The Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine and Global Affairs Canada support the project.
The event was organized as part of the UHHRU project on institutional development, funded by the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine and supported by the International Documentary Film Festival on Human Rights Docudays UA.
Prepared by Oleh Shynkarenko
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