Kudepsta: ongoing fight for the right of free assembly and access to information and public participation in decision-making on environmental matters

2012-05-31_Kudepsta_Blok_TES_IMG_7817.previewNatural Gas Power Plant at Kudepsta is planned to be built very near to residential areas of Kudepsta. It is a part of Olympic plan. Environmental groups and experts criticise the project because of its health and environmental threats as a result of high level of gas and noise pollution.

Some preparatory work for construction of the Kudepsta thermal power plant have taken place in violation of environmental, human rights, and construction laws. Local residents have not been provided with information, including documentation that must be made publicly available. Local residents are being prevented from being heard by construction company, State Corporation Olympstroy, the IOC, and federal and local governmental authorities.

Kudepsta problem is the ongoing fight for a healthy environment guaranteed by the Russian Constitution.

Violation of environmental law

Preparatory work for construction began in violation of federal law 174 “On
environmental assessment” and Ministry of Regional Development Order no. 356 regulating
preparatory construction for Olympic sites. Both laws require that no preparatory construction for an Olympic site can be performed until all necessary documentation has been submitted for the state review. Preparatory construction work may begin only after 1) the results of an
environmental impact assessment (EIA) are presented at a public hearing, and 2) documents
that include both the EIA and the results of the hearing are submitted for state
environmental assessment and then state review.

However, preparatory construction, including cutting trees and construction of a bridge and a fence, began in spring 2012, more than 2 months before August 24, 2012 public hearing and before documents had been submitted for state environmental assessment and state review.

Kudepsta residents submitted dozens of petitions and complaints stating their health and environmental concerns to local and federal authorities, as well as to the IOC. Although, no substantive response has been received. Residents face difficulties in obtaining official documentation on environmental impact assessment which, under the law, must be made publicly available (Federal law 174 “On Environmental Assessment”).

Violation of the right to free assembly

Residents and activists have suffered harassment when they attempted to voice publicly their concerns that construction works are being carried out unlawfully. Residents and activists set up a camp and several times blocked the road leading to the construction site. They also called the police to inspect whether workers had obligatory permits to conduct the work. 

Kudepsta

Police detained Anatoly Mahnovsky (the head of Kudepsta TOS, institution of local government) and Pavel Chesnokov (TOS member). Both men told Human Rights Watch that police asked them to sign reports that contained false information about how men were detained. Men refused to do so. Police was trying to charge men for organizing the unsanctioned gathering. Chesnokov was re-detained and charged, although later the charges for disobeying police orders and organizing unsanctioned gathering were dropped. Mahnovsky died in uncertain circumstances on September 11, 2012. 

On September 9, 2012, police detained two environmentalists, Alexei Mandrigelya and Ivan Karpenko. Karpenko was charged with disobeying police orders, however, later, the judge returned the cased to the police for clarifications as accusations were not clear to the court. On September 14, 2012, Kiril Goncharov and Tatiana Romanova were arrested and charged for disobeying police orders. The court proceeding took place in rush, literally in minutes. 

International standards

Russia is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Regarding the Kudepsta power plant, Russia is in violation of ECHR which is a legally binding international treaty for Russia. The European Court of Human Rights had held that the right to private and family life, as well as enjoyment of property and the right to life, includes a right to protection from environmental pollution. Under ECHR, Russia is obliged to conduct a meaningful environmental and social impact assessment of the planned activity. The Court requires to undertake investigation which takes interests of affected parties into account. The study, the Court states, need to be aimed at finding the best solution “by trying to find alternative solutions and by generally seeking to achieve their [States’] aims in the least onerous way as regards human rights.” Russia is in violation of ECHR by failure to make information on environmental matters related to Kudepsta power plant publicly available. 

As to the right to free assembly, Russia is in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 20), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 21), ECHR (Article 11).

Russia is planning to become a party to the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. As of today, Russia and Uzbekistan are the only ex-USSR countries which do not participate in the Convention. 

By Yulia Genin, Sochi Watch, sochiwatch@gmail.com based on materials by Human Rights Watch and EWNC.

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About Yulia Genin

environmentalist
This entry was posted in Natural Gas Power Plant at Kudepsta. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Kudepsta: ongoing fight for the right of free assembly and access to information and public participation in decision-making on environmental matters

  1. Pingback: Police is Demolishing the Camp Organized to Protest Construction of Kudepsta Thermal Power Plant | Sochi Watch

  2. Pingback: The end for Natural Gas Power Plant at Kudepsta | Sochi Watch

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