Donetsk oblast still does not have an eco strategy. The Environmental Protection Action Plan for Donetsk Oblast for 2013-20 which was presented to the public last week is supposed to solve that problem.
“The situation became complicated in Donetsk oblast because we have been exploiting natural resources rather actively throughout the whole time of industry development. And now we understand that problems have to be solved. Our oblast is the leader in all types of pollution in Ukraine. This has happened because we are the most industrially loaded region in Ukraine and Europe. It is not our fault, it is our problem. Unfortunately, during the years of Ukraine’s independence, the rules of the game were not defined. We only received the law on eco-strategy of Ukraine until 2020 in 2010. It determined areas and tasks that we are going to solve. A national action plan was adopted. And now, based on these documents, the Environmental Protection Plan until 2020 was prepared. It has been presented for public’s discussion. And later it will be considered by the board of the Donetsk Oblast State Administration and session of the Oblast Council,” said head of the State Administration for Environment Protection in Donetsk Oblast Serhii TRETIAKOV.
The main goal of the project is to provide ecological security through prevention and minimization of negative human impact on environment, ecological balancing of the region, transition from outdated methods to the new ones. The project contains information on protection of atmospheric air, water resources, lands and soils, forests, geological environment, treatment of waste and hazardous chemicals, cessation of loss of biological and landscape environment, creation of ecologic network. Tretiakov also noted that the funds for improvement of ecological situation will be provided by the largest polluter companies. However, there is no information on how control over payments and observance of regulations will be implemented. Also, there is no answer for the question: what penalties are to be expected by the companies that would not fulfill the obligations? “Those who developed the program are to act as a supervisory body. Besides, the program is not approved yet, that is why the public can make amendments to it,” Tretiakov says.
Among the steps that are to be taken in the next seven years are decommissioning of sintering machines and manufacturing equipment at sinter plants, reconstruction of convectors, reconstruction and construction of modular treatment plants, conservation of unproductive and degraded lands, utilization of industrial waste at the PJSC “Azovstal,” Ilyich Iron and Steel Works, Yenakiieve Iron and Steel Works, Avdiivka Coke Plant. It is also planned to add 8,943.4 hectares to forest area. According to Tretiakov, some water treatment measures are already in effect. A total of 140 steps worth over 32 billion hryvnias are included in the project. It is planned to allocate 70,700 thousand hryvnias from the state budget, 745,825.40 thousand hryvnias from oblast budget, 461,176.60 thousand hryvnias from city and raion budgets, 31,352,426.38 thousand hryvnias from companies, and 106,450 thousand from other sources.
“You might ask why such figures. Today 20 metallurgical and energy plants are effectively the key air polluters. The measures from the agenda are actually theirs. When working on the program, we asked those enterprises to share with us their agendas till 2020. Therefore, our documents reflect their responsibilities. Our mission is to work with major polluters and correct their actions,” said Tretiakov. Meanwhile, Tetiana STROI, program director at the Donetsk Press Club, added that SCM has refused to participate in the discussion, quoting an unfinished agenda. The company is allegedly busy developing their environmental vision.
Today, 53 percent from businesses’ environmental protection funds is transferred to the municipal budget, while 33 percent is returned to finance their environmental programs.
Says Serhii DENYSENKO, chairman of community council at the State Administration for Environmental Protection in Donetsk oblast and vice chairman of the NGO Donetsk Environmental Movement: “We have seen many programs like that. We can only state that air pollution keeps growing. This shows what kind of environmental policy our oblast has had. Unfortunately, this agenda will hardly change anything at all. Suffice it to check out the list of enterprises which are supposed to contribute to the environmental fund. Among them is the Zuiv Thermal Power Plant with 8 billion hryvnias, Kurakhiv Thermal Power Plant with 9.5 billion hryvnias, and Sloviansk Thermal Power Plant with 1 billion hryvnias. Seriously, will anyone believe that these power plants can invest such sums in their development? Unfortunately, today there is no tool to force these companies to make these investments.”
According to Volodymyr ZHURAVLIOV, president of the Donetsk oblast environmental civic organization, all eyes should be on the problem of natural water protection in Yasynuvata. “Yasynuvata raion is for some reason completely excluded. Meanwhile, it is situated on the watershed of three rivers. Given that not a single town or village there has a working sewerage system, what can we say about the composition of their waters? But this is not even an issue. This is just one of a multitude of problems. I am not criticizing the government, but I know all too well how environmental agendas are made. No real, feasible measures are ever entered there, and no realistic figures, as there is no hope that these agendas will ever be implemented, or these funds allocated.”
Olena YAVORSKA, head of the Vinnytsia oblast environmental organization “The Green World of Podillia” and former deputy minister for environment (2006-07) remarked in a telephone interview that “no one in the government is in fact busy with solving environmental problems,” but in the framework of the current legislation the Donetsk oblast agenda looks pretty decent.
Yet several questions remain, which can occur to any Ukrainian citizen.
Firstly, why is there still no uniform, comprehensive, clear-cut action plan, with clear sanctions and distribution of responsibilities?
Secondly, why, despite openly admitting to the urgent environmental problems, no one has ever set this task as one of primary importance? So far none of the MPs elected in Donetsk oblast has made any promises to lobby for environmental legislation. To be precise, earlier this year MPs from Mariupol promised to support environmental initiatives in the Verkhovna Rada and even create a so-called Mariupol lobby. Such statements were made by Mayor Yurii Khotlubei after a series of environmental rallies in Mariupol. “We will consider all suggestions concerning proposed legislation. We have come to an agreement with MPs Oleksii Bily and Serhii Matviienkov; I also expect support from Volodymyr Boiko. As for investment in up-to-date equipment, it is stipulated by the environmental protection guidelines. Besides, today’s reality forces the stakeholders upgrade to a new level of quality,” emphasized Khotlubei. However, no parliamentary activity in this respect has been registered so far.