Authorities want to take away a special protection status from the main health resort of Russia.
Amendments to the Federal Law "On Specially Protected Natural Areas" and certain legislative acts were hastily adopted on the eve of the new year. Aleksey Mayorov, chairman of the Federation Council committee on agrarian and food policy and environmental management, refers to the constitutional rights of citizens, explaining the need for amendments. The special status of natural areas and the regime of their protection, according to him, did not allow citizens living within the borders of national parks to grow vegetable gardens there, and local governments - to implement programs for social and economic support of the population - to build kindergartens, schools, hospitals, etc.
Environmentalists and specialists have already criticized the updated law - arguments about social guarantees of citizens, in their opinion, raise doubts. Possible negative consequences look much more significant.
There are 63 national parks in Russia, and only 27 of them have 923 settlements, which are subject to the new rules. So, only 370 thousand people live in them. The problems with social facilities for such a number of people can be solved without the adoption of a federal law, lawyers say. For example, individual construction and gardening in settlements within specially protected natural areas was still quite possible on a lease basis. The sad result of the innovations may be the irrevocable alienation of reserved lands in favor of private individuals and the subsequent construction orgy. It will be possible to build new facilities here without going through the state environmental expertise.
For decades, private owners of the Chudnoye gold deposit in the UNESCO-protected Yugyd Va National Park in Komi, industrialists claiming the Shikhan Kushtau in Bashkiria and Yasnaya Polyana in Kemerovo, and others have been dreaming of redrawing the borders of national parks.
140 hectares on the Losiny Ostrov protected area have long been included in the draft resolutions of the Ministry of Natural Resources as a backup to the Shchelkovskoye Highway and a shopping center, on the construction of which 37-45 billion rubles are planned to be spent.
With the relaxation of environmental legislation, attacks on the resort areas of Russia will intensify, experts say.
Alarming signals come from the Stavropol Territory. The resorts of the Caucasian Mineral Waters are the only region in the country with a specially protected ecological-resort status. Previously, they were essentially protected by a dual regulatory framework: requirements for Specially Protected Natural Areas and for Zones with special conditions for the use of territories.
"Movement has begun to abolish the special status of the Caucasian Mineral Waters. Such a decision will not only destroy the unique resorts, but will also give the regional authorities the opportunity to cut the region piece by piece, giving the most tasty things to close businessmen for the ugliest construction projects. And without that, there were so many scandalous attempts to withdraw the federal lands by the decision of the governor. But until now the courts have sided with the citizens. The green light that was given to the destruction of specially protected natural areas also lights up for the destruction of the largest health resorts in Russia", - said a resident of Pyatigorsk, an activist for the protection of resort cities of Kavminvodi (Caucasian Mineral Waters) Yekaterina Shevchenko.
In December 2020, on the Portal of Projects of the Law, the official website for posting information on the preparation by federal executive bodies of draft regulatory legal acts and the results of their public discussion regulation.gov.ru, a draft of repealing the decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 309 of 03/27/1992 appeared. - on giving the region of Caucasian Mineral Waters the status of a specially protected ecological-resort region of the Russian Federation, which has federal significance, within the boundaries of the okrug of the sanitary protection of the resort.
The draft of the new regulation on the Caucasian Mineral Waters, in general, is the result and consequence of attempts to weaken the legislation in territories with a restrictive regime, which have been incessantly undertaken throughout the past year, comments Mikhail Kreindlin, head of specially protected natural areas of Greenpeace Russia.
In June 2020, a law was adopted abolishing the environmental expertise of the construction of facilities in all specially protected natural areas in the regions and for trunk infrastructure facilities in specially protected natural areas of federal significance (albeit in the latter case by the end of 2024). On December 31, a new list of activities in the Baikal natural territory was approved, which actually means the lifting of the ban on construction in untouched natural areas in this zone.
"The actions of the authorities of the Stavropol Territory all the years before last and last years in this sense were already ahead of today's trends. They tried to transfer parts of the land for various commercial projects. Many sites from protected areas have already been embroiled in lawsuits. And somewhere the land withdrawal can be canceled in court, but a significant number of areas of regional PAs have been reduced. Mountains Mashuk, Zmeyka, Beshtaugorsky reserve have already been excluded from the reserves. Of course, the Stavropol authorities will be interested in Kavminvodi (Caucasian Mineral Waters) in relation to the weakening of the sanitary protection regime of the district, they will strive to reduce the strictest first district", - says Kreindlin.
According to the conclusions of an independent study by scientists from the branch of the Russian Geographical Society of the North Caucasian Federal University, Pyatigorsk and Kislovodsk approached the threshold of an ecological catastrophe in 2016. Essentuki and Zheleznovodsk were approaching a critical point.
"Just two years ago, at the entrance to the resort town of Pyatigorsk, the Caucasian ridge and the highest mountain in Europe, Elbrus, were visible. Today, a 36-meter shopping center with the aesthetics of a garage or warehouse has replaced the panorama that the whole world would envy. These are the priorities of the current "city fathers", following the lead of temporary businessmen. Local self-government - still for the most part - come from the nineties and the environment for them is an empty phrase. Protected areas are sold to the right and left, the documentary base is raped and turned out to suit the developer. New trends in lawmaking, when responsibility for specially protected natural areas is transferred from the federal level to regions and municipalities, are destructive. In the history of Caucasian resorts, this is a precedent for all 200 years. The authorities do not need a unique region. They do not need medical tourism and health improvement of citizens", - emphasizes Yekaterina Shevchenko.
“Protected natural areas are being reduced, these plots are easily given away for the construction of elite real estate, including for the top officials of the state, natural monuments are being destroyed,” comments Nikolay Rybakov, ecologist, chairman of the Yabloko party. - The weakening of the status of natural areas is now, in principle, forced across the country. It is allowed to change the boundaries of protected areas, under the guise of landscaping recreational facilities, housing is being built locally. There is no such hunt for specially protected natural areas - the North, the Arctic. But the South in this sense, of course, suffers critically. On the de-ecological map, it is the center of Russia...