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Vandalism without borders and rules: protected natural lands will get under the buckets of builders
18 April, 13:03
Society
Vandalism without borders and rules: protected natural lands will get under the buckets of builders
Construction without environmental impact assessment may be allowed in nature reserves, national parks and federal reserves in Russia. This bill was passed by the State Duma in the first reading. What this will mean for the environmental safety of the country and for all of us, NI found out.

Irina Mishina

Draft Law No. 94578-8 “On Amendments to the Town Planning Code of the Russian Federation and Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation” was submitted to the lower house as part of the Government's anti-crisis project. It provides for the abolition of restrictions on the use of special protected natural areas.

State Duma: there is no unanimity of opinion on the bill

As it became known to NI, opinions on this bill were divided in the State Duma . The committees on ecology and agrarian issues issued conclusions in which they noted that this legislative initiative requires serious improvement. Three factions also voted against the project - the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, A Just Russia and New People. Firstly, according to the deputies, the list of objects that can be built within the boundaries of protected areas is not limited. That is, to cut down forests, for example, near Lake Baikal, and it will be possible to build up the coast without obstacles. Theoretically, it will be possible to build up even the sickest national park in Russia, Yugyd Va, through whose territory gold-bearing deposits pass.

NI turned to the State Duma Ecology Committee for a comment, to its leader, Mr. Kobylkin, with a request to give the committee's opinion on this bill and the prospects for its adoption. But no response has been received at the time of publication.

Deputy Chairman of the Ecology Committee Vladimir Burmatov categorically refused to comment, shifting all responsibility to his leader, Mr. Kobylkin. It is interesting to note that both Burmatov and Kobylkin, who are responsible for ecology in the State Duma, belong to the United Russia party, which supported the legislative initiative, essentially canceling out any attempts to protect protected natural areas from the construction industry. However, if you look at the composition of the State Duma Committee on Ecology, the majority there belongs to United Russia, which, as you guessed correctly, voted for this bill.

According to many experts, the most cynical thing about this bill is that they are trying to disguise it as a fight against Western sanctions.

“This draft law has nothing to do with countering sanctions pressure on the state and business. Attempts to significantly weaken environmental legislation in this area have taken place before. It is quite possible that someone is simply trying, under the pretext of fighting sanctions, to smuggle permits for planting within the boundaries of the protected areas of specific territories. On the other hand, it is quite possible that this is just a consequence of the weak lobbying position of the environmental bloc in the federal government. In particular, responsible for the system of protected areas. That is, the industrial and town-planning blocs lobby their interests more successfully. But in public administration it is necessary to achieve a balance. Moreover, it is necessary to act in the interests of the state", - Anton Khlynov, a member of the Commission for Ecological Welfare at the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, believes.

Known protected areas under attack

The new law is likely to be adopted for specific territories, which are probably already planned for development. Which one is not hard to guess.

“As a result of the adoption of this law, most likely, protected areas in Moscow, the Moscow region and St. Petersburg will be built up in the first place. We have numerous courts on the facts of adjusting the boundaries of protected areas for development in these regions”, - Galina Morozova, head of the Moscow city society for the protection of nature, executive secretary of the Red Book of Moscow, explained to Novye Izvestia.

Losiny Ostrov National Park has long been an "ecological hotspot" on the map of Moscow and Russia. The site of this national park quietly, without discussions and approvals, disappeared from the USRN state register. It is planned to lay a part of the North-Eastern chord along it. Defenders of Losiny Ostrov argue that the construction work is illegal. Earlier, the Moscow authorities promised to consider other options for laying the road that do not affect the protected area. Experts are sure that if an ecological expertise had been carried out in Losinoe, reasonable solutions could have been found.

“The route could be removed into a deep or shallow tunnel or, if you choose the option of passing it on the surface of the earth, the natural complexes of the park adjacent to it could be reliably protected from light, noise and dust effects, and ecological culverts and ecoducts for small animals could be made. And for this it would be possible not to stint on the state ecological expertise. It would be a model object for the whole country. However, nothing has been done. It is quite possible to return to this issue and work out, using the example of Losiny Ostrov, environmentally friendly solutions for the construction of transport infrastructure through protected areas and in protected areas”, - said Anton Khlynov, a member of the Commission for Environmental Welfare at the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation.

The offensive of the construction complex on protected natural areas in the Baikal region caused a great resonance and protests in the country. This is primarily about cutting down the forest fund in the area. As you know, until December 31, 2024, it is allowed to remove the construction of the Baikal - Amur and Trans-Siberian highways from a number of environmental restrictions, in particular, to allow clear-cutting of forests on Lake Baikal.

“If the bill is adopted, it will be possible to build almost any infrastructure facilities and clear-cutting forests in the Central Ecological Zone of the Baikal Natural Territory. The bill may lead to a significant deterioration in the condition of Lake Baikal, which contains 20% of the world's fresh water reserves and is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, a violation of the environmental rights of Russian citizens, whose lives are inextricably linked with Baikal. The draft law under consideration... directly contradicts the principles and norms of the Federal Law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”, - says Mikhail Kreindlin , head of the direction for the protection of valuable natural areas of Greenpeace, in the conclusion.

Another "hot spot" on the ecological map of the country is the Bitsevsky Forest park. This gigantic forested area in the south of Moscow has been reminiscent of a besieged fortress for two years now, which residents are desperately defending from a "beautification" project. The other day our editors received a letter from one of the activists in the protection of this natural complex.

“For several days now, for several hundred meters, the skeletal roots of trees have been cut off on the asphalt road from Balaklavsky Prospekt to Yasenevo in the 3rd quarter of the Bitsevsky Forest protected area. Normative distances from shafts to trenches are violated. More than 500 trees damaged roots!!! In some places, the distance is less than 40 cm. Thus, the Decree of the Government of Moscow dated September 10, 2002 No. 743-PP: 9.8. Violated the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation Article 260: illegal logging, as well as damage to the extent of cessation of growth of forest plantations or trees, shrubs, lianas not classified as forest plantations, if these acts were committed in a significant amount”, - environmental activist Kirill Pavlov told the editors of Novye Izvestia.

Does the bill go against the constitution?

Actually, if the draft law abolishing the environmental impact assessment is adopted and becomes law, several existing legislative acts and the Russian Constitution will be violated at once. As you know, in 2020, amendments were made to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, one of which was the obligation of the authorities to preserve the natural wealth and biological diversity of Russia, as well as reduce the negative impact on the environment. This thesis covered the main goals of changing the Constitution. But when the political tasks were solved, the voters, as usual, were forgotten.

In general, the environmental review procedure is the only legislatively fixed mechanism for realizing the rights of citizens to a favorable environment and reliable information about its condition. If it is forgotten, citizens and public associations will be deprived of the opportunity to exercise the rights provided for by federal laws, such as public discussion of objects of environmental expertise (Article 14 of the Federal Law “On Environmental Expertise”), Article 12 of the Federal Law “On Environmental Protection”, Art. . 19 of the Federal Law "On Environmental Expertise". People will be deprived of the opportunity to participate in decision-making that can have a negative impact on the environment, life, health and property of citizens (Article 12 of the Federal Law "On Environmental Protection").

“Consequently, citizens and public associations will be deprived of the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to a favorable environment. In accordance with Article 15 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, it is the Constitution of the Russian Federation that has the highest legal force, direct effect and applies throughout the territory of the Russian Federation. Laws and other legal acts adopted in the Russian Federation must not contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation”, - says environmentalist Mikhail Kreindlin.

But the main result of this law, according to ecologists, is that people, having lost protected areas, may lose their health.

“WHO recommends the following environmental standard for providing urban residents with greenery: 50 square meters of green space per person in the city and 300 square meters per person in the suburban area. Moscow and the Moscow region are being built up, the environmental standard is coming to naught. Any loss of greenery in the city is the loss of its "green lungs" and personal losses for residents. We calculated that with the planned development of protected areas in Moscow alone, 6,000 people will be deprived of greenery in accordance with environmental standards”, - Galina Morozova, head of the Moscow City Society for the Protection of Nature, told NI.

In the meantime, the deadline for filing citizens' appeals on the discussed bill on the abolition of environmental expertise has expired. People turned to their deputies, to the relevant committees of the State Duma. “We are waiting for the result. It is obvious that this law is being lobbied by the construction business headed by Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin. In essence, it is anti-social and has only one goal: to untie the hands of developers,” says Galina Morozova.

You can often hear from the construction lobby: "Environmentalists hinder the development of the urban development complex." But at the same time, no one talks about the main thing. The area of protected areas in Russia today is only 12.5% of the total area of Russia. This is a very small part for a huge country. Therefore, the preservation of protected natural areas is today a state matter.

P.S.

As we know, on the eve of the second reading of the draft law No. 94578-8 "On Amendments to the Town Planning Code of the Russian Federation and Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation", the amendments of the State Duma Committee on Ecology were taken into account. It is reported that the Committee received tens of thousands of appeals from citizens of the country concerned about the fate of protected areas, which could be affected if the bill was adopted in its original version.