«Bridge the Gap: Environmental and Industrial Risks in eastern Ukraine» conference. Day 2. Panel discussion

22 лютого 2021

On February 17, within the conference «Bridge the Gap: Environmental and Industrial Risks in eastern Ukraine», representatives of the Right to Protection CF held thematic panel discussion «Environmental Monitoring for national risk-oriented approach».

Representatives of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, Members of Environmental Committees and Departments, ecologists and experts, as well as the elected representatives took part in the event.*

During the discussion, current problems in the field of environmental monitoring and the issues of legislative regulation of this area were actively discussed. The event also presented the results of a study conducted by the Right to Protection CF regarding the level of awareness of the population in the settlements of Donetsk region (Government-Controlled Areas) about environmental and industrial risks that exist in their places of residence.

The topic of environmental monitoring was chosen as a starting point for the second day of the conference and included discussions on environmental and disaster risks prevention. 

After all, monitoring is the basis of a risk-oriented approach, it is a chance to predict and prevent serious environmental disasters.

«As my colleague Artem Krenbok remarked, in medical terms, monitoring is a diagnosis of the disease. If we do not have the data on the condition of the whole organism, we can not prescribe proper treatment,»

The lack of a nationwide industrial and environmental risk monitoring system means complete lack of information on the general state of the ecosystem, thus making it impossible to fully and effectively use a risk-oriented approach.

According to Anastasia Bondarenko, back in 1998 Ukraine launched an environmental monitoring system which then should have been implemented, but as of now only some of its elements are functioning.  

«We monitor surface waters, in some cities - air monitoring is available, but these elements do not allow us to create a broad picture of what is happening to our environment. We do not monitor industrial risks. Common knowledge is that Donetsk and Luhansk regions have the biggest concentration of industrial objects, and we can only guess what is happening there because of the moratorium on inspections of the enterprises.»

This thesis was confirmed by Lesya Vasylenko, MP, head of sub-committee of climate changes, and Air Protection of the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Environmental Policy and Nature Management

«Risk assessment system in Ukraine is somewhat outdated, and a risk-oriented approach is not the basis for implementation of the concept of “environmental safety”. According to the current law, environmental safety is interpreted as a factor that affects the well-being and human life, and this is true.  But we must keep in mind that the world is moving forward and we, together with the whole world, are experiencing the consequences of climate change, so it is not enough to think of the environment as a space consisting only of humans and everything necessary for their life & well-being»

Currently, there are discussions at the level of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine on the development of a state concept of adaptation to climate change.  According to Ms. Vasylenko, this concept includes a risk-oriented approach to how environmental safety will be determined through the prism of risk reduction.  

«We discussed with you last year on this matter and I can already say that we will recommend the government and the Verkhovna Rada to consider amending the law, which will remove restrictions on monitoring in areas where hostilities are taking place,»

Petro Kropotov, Chief Specialist of the Department of Emergency Prevention of the State Emergency Service (SES) of Ukraine also stressed the need to make changes to the state system of environmental monitoring.

He noted that in accordance with the Code of Civil Protection, there is a single state system of civil protection that exists and operates in Ukraine. One of its subsystems is called “Environmental Monitoring”, and the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources is responsible for it. It is its representatives who carry out hydrological and atmospheric air monitoring, but this current mechanism has long been in need of revision.

«In January 2014, the government approved the concept of managing the risks of emergencies of industrial and natural kind and later adopted the plan for its implementation. SES of Ukraine together with other governmental bodies and the National Academy of Sciences carried out these measures. We have developed a basic document that should be approved – “Regulations on the organization of risk management”, but first the amendments to the Code of Civil Protection are needed. At the same time, SES is being reformed and we are moving to a risk-oriented approach to state supervision and control.»

The same measures aimed at enterprises that may pose a potential environmental threat are implemented by other supervisory authorities.  And this is right, because according to the representative of the SES, the risk should be paid by the person who creates it. In fact, if an entity creates a risk, it should pay to minimize it, and the state should control it.

«The SES has also developed a draft resolution "On the functioning of the system of monitoring and forecasting of emergencies of industrial and natural kind". We have also been working on the establishment of the Emergency Monitoring Center, but the events in the east have reshaped all government spending.  So now we are considering the possibility of monitoring and forecasting by the State Center for Emergency Management.  However, it also needs modernization.»

According to Vladyslav Alekseev, Head of the Office of Regulatory Policy and Ecological Expertise of the Agency of Nature Reserves, Forestry and Regulatory Policy of the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Donetsk Regional State Administration of Ukraine, the current environmental monitoring system in the Donetsk region is an open information system. The priorities of its functioning are the protection of vital ecological interests of man and society.

«System includes 7 stationary posts and 2 mobile laboratories for monitoring and control of atmospheric air, 50 compact air quality stations on the border of sanitary protection zones,»

Ganna Cherkasova, Main Ecologist of Toretsk city, also spoke about improvements in the field of environmental monitoring in the Donetsk region.

«There was a big step forward in this direction. We received sensors that work online. Therefore, the population now has wide access to all monitoring data, which has never been the case before. Previously, there were only a few inquiries and appeals, but now people can go to the site at any time of day and see the real time picture. In addition, the Smart City application was recently developed in Toretsk, thanks to which everyone can access information that is constantly updated and ask questions to the specialists.»

In addition, the issue of regional environmental funds remains unresolved, making it impossible to compensate for environmental damage. The lack of specialists also remains a problem.

«Monitoring is a big step for me as an ecologist, but I would like to understand: if there is monitoring, then we must have tools to respond to certain situations, if there are programs, then funding should be provided, if there are accidents and there is damage to the environment, we must determine guilty and reimburse damages, if the inspection can not come to us, then the authorization to perform such an inspection must be transferred to the local state representatives,»

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