In early March, environmentalists told the press about a glaring discovery they had made at the Lybid River’s mouth, listed as a natural reserve: experts accidentally stumbled upon soot, rubber tires and other debris from Independence Square, which utilities of Kyiv’s Pechersk district had taken there. Having documented this violation, staff of the National Environmental Center (NEC) reported it to the State Environmental Inspectorate. It took environmentalists a few months to force the agency to find a violation of law and calculate the damages honestly and fairly. According to the inspectorate, utilities now have to pay a fine of almost three million (to be precise, 2,982,305 hryvnias) for the damage caused to lands of natural reserve. These figures have been determined by its inspectors based on soil tests and calculations of pollution in an area of over 1,000 square meters. More importantly, this is likely the first time that the State Ecological Inspectorate has recognized violations of such a magnitude and referred the case to prosecutors.
For the first time, there is a chance that the perpetrators will actually be punished. For environmentalists who are fighting for years against violators of environmental laws, it is a real precedent, because utilities were taking garbage from the center of the city to the Lybid’s mouth for years. Experts had earlier told The Day that it was fairly common to transport to the intersection of Kikvidze and Saperno-Slobidska streets whatever garbage utilities were collecting after the melting of snow in the center of Kyiv. Experts made statements about these violations before, appealed to the inspectorate to estimate the damages and help institute criminal proceedings (pollution of land belonging to the natural reserve is punished with both administrative and criminal penalties, up to imprisonment not exceeding five years). However, no one was held accountable.
“At present, the State Environmental Inspectorate referred its findings to prosecutors for launching a criminal case. Today, however, we must not stop be vigilant. We spent almost three months to make inspectors perform their jobs and calculate the amount of damages. Now we have to make sure that they follow it through by assuring that a criminal case will be launched and collecting the appropriate amount of damages,” the deputy chairman of the National Environmental Centre of Ukraine Oleksii Vasyliuk commented.
By the way, the inspectorate was in no hurry to recognize violations of the law and levy a fine. They responded with contradictory replies to the NEC experts’ requests to take action on these violations. Vasyliuk told us that one letter from an inspector explained that they had found no soot and tire on the Lybid’s banks, while another recognized the fact. As a result, the debris were finally taken away a few weeks ago. Conservationists are hoping now that this experience will teach utilities a lesson and no more rubbish will appear at natural beauty sites.