Stable intentions of sustainable development

The Parliament failed voting the environmental laws. Last Friday at the symbolic Earth Day the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine planned to consider three documents – on the environmental impact assessment (№2009а-d), on the measures aimed at promoting nature-reserve fund (№3124) and on the implementation of the integrated approaches into the water resources by the basin principles (№3603), but environmental reform was failed again…

Two actual steps

Internal domestic legislation and international documents that Ukraine implements, permeated with the term “sustainable development”. There is even the Strategy for sustainable development “Ukraine-2020”. As formerly stability” figured everywhere, and now it is a sustainable development.

But in fact this definition in Ukraine exists only on the paper; there are no actual steps for implementing this concept of balanced development. Actually, the term “sustainable development” “came” in Ukraine with slightly incorrect translation from English. Sustainable development literally means viable development that exists throughout the entire time. And the worst part is that we still poorly understand how serious ideology carries the definition of “sustainable development” and what will give to Ukraine its implementation. So now juggling by the term for us is more a tribute to fashion than the state idea or ideology.

Sustainable development it is a model of economic growth, in which resources usage aimed on the meeting human needs while preserving the environment.  And in such way that the development needs will be satisfied not only for the current generations but also for future ones. At the heart of the sustainable development concept stays a human, because itself with its needs is the goal of social activity, and it is a major indicator of reaching the goal.

Its desire to transfer to the path of sustainable development for the first time Ukraine has defined far 1992 by signing the appropriate Declaration on the environment and development and the Program of actions “Agenda for the XXI century”. Since that time the state made two unprecedented steps towards for sustainable development voluntarily: having the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world, voluntarily renounced it, and in spite of the energy crisis, closed the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. However, Ukraine hasn’t made other steps for the implementation of the concept of sustainable development for more than 20 years.

The basic euro-strategy

In Europe the doctrine of sustainable development lies at the heart of all public projects.

In particular, Germany, on the path to the sustainable development of the country, adopted a new energy concept and chose the way to the era of renewable energy sources. The Federal Government is aiming to reduce GHG emissions and phase out atomic energy usage, replacing it with energy of wind, sun, water and bio-resources.

In the Netherlands have built bike road, which is equipped with solar panels and generate energy. This road connects the suburbs of Kromeni and Wormerveer.

In the Britain it is planned to build a road of solar panel for electro-cars. And automobiles will be able to charge during theirs move.

Recently in France were obliged the roofs of homes built in commercial zones to cover with planted plants or solar panels...

Domestic realities

But in Ukraine such initiatives are very few; they are made mostly by active citizens. Instead, a clear policy of the state aimed at taking into account the environmental component equally with economic and social is not seen.

In the Strategy for sustainable development “Ukraine-2020” ecological problems haven’t a lot of attention. In document there are only remarks that we need to give attention to the safety and health of human life, which is impossible, in particular, without safe condition of environment and access to the good-quality drinking water, but they weren’t defined among the top-priorities.

In 2015 the issue of environmental policy in the state barely paid attention, for a long time the ministry even had no a leader. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine also doesn’t hurry with adoption of environmental laws. Some draft laws are ready to be discussed, but voting are not included into the agenda for months. Some of them are constantly stay in the plan, but voting doesn’t reach to them. In 2016 was not voted any draft law aimed at protecting the environment.

Instead, according to the WHO a quarter of deaths worldwide caused environmental factors such as polluted air, polluted water and hazardous industries... And we have indeed enough such problems.

Firstly, the state of Ukrainian waters does not meet quality and sanitary standards that affect the quality of drinking water – increased concentration isotopes of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in water accelerates aging, even a small proportion of tritium suppress human activity, and aluminum salts, even in small doses cause mental retardation in children.

Secondly, emissions into the air several times higher than allowed, including emissions from enterprises that running on outdated equipment, and emissions of old vehicles. 80% of vehicles operated for more than eight years so do not have the special devices to neutralize harmful substances, a large number of vehicles running on gasoline, in which the strong carcinogens are added. The total level of air pollution in Kyiv is higher than average level in Ukraine and is estimated by experts as high.

Thirdly, a state of the lands that is close to a critical level. More than 12 thousands hectares (according to the Ministry of Regional Development) within the country is occupied by landfills. All-Ukrainian Ecological League operates data about 7% of the country. Often this waste is not sorted: one penlight battery contaminates with heavy metals 20 square meters of ground or 400 of water. Recently, environmentalists are finding the whole landfills of broken mercury lamps outside the settlements; such dumps contaminate soil and groundwater for decades.

Unfortunately, our society is aware the importance of the environment for human lives only after disasters. Just after the Chernobyl disaster, many ecologically oriented NGOs were established in Ukraine, which became at protecting the environment, to promote the implementation of international agreements.

Today it is important to change the attitude to the environment, which has already must be not just protected, but to invest in its restoration.

European directives and Ukrainian laws

It is known that Europeans reaches a remarkable success in the protection of the environment, reducing the impact of human activity on nature. Particularly, in EU exists a whole package of directives, which clearly regulating the “interaction of human’s activity with environment”. This concerns the need of preventive measures before the activities – damage assessment that may be caused by such activities and taking measures to reduce it before its start. Also the “environment treatment” rules must act in the process of economy activity and daily human activity – it is smart handling of the waste, regulation of emissions of harmful substances into atmospheric air, careful handling of water resources, animal and plant life etc. Along with such rules a system of control and monitoring system of liability for damage are exist.

Implementation of European environmental legislation must provide us the introduction of clear rules and tools, but also we have to create a system considering our realities.

A decisive step towards sustainable development should be the implementation of mechanisms of environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment. The draft laws, which are aimed on this, are already waiting for voting. These are the mechanisms of so-called “preventive measures” concerning protection of the environment. Before making a decision on planned activity or before adoption of plans and programs by responsible bodies, the environmental impact assessment involving local residents and public must be provided.

Also, such areas as water resources management, waste management, air quality improvement, introduction of smart regulation in order to prevent insufficiency of regulation and overcoming the corruption risks etc. requiring attention of society, government and parliamentarians. And these things cannot be postponed, because it is the health of our society and future generations, our quality of life.