Violations of environmental law were discussed at a roundtable on May 27 at the Irkutsk Law Institute, a branch of the University of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation. Representatives of the environmental prosecutor’s office, the judiciary, scientists and social activists adopted a resolution with proposals to the authorities. Among them – to give the water of Lake Baikal the status of a strategic resource. creation of a single body of control and supervision in the natural territory of Baikal.
– The event is held in the context of the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Russian Public Prosecutor’s Office, the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Soviet Prosecutor’s Office and the 25th anniversary of the founding of our university, – Opening the meeting, the Director of the Irkutsk Law Institute (branch) of the University of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation, Doctor of Law, addressed the audience Oleg Gribunov. – The issues of environmental safety, the problems of environmental legislation are very relevant. Discussed at the highest level, the President of the Russian Federation has repeatedly spoken about the protection of Lake Baikal. At the forefront of environmental protection is the detection of crimes in the forestry sector. Thus, according to Article 260 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation – Illegal logging – in 2021, about 9 thousand crimes were detected in the country. One third of them fell in the Federal Region of Siberia, more than a thousand were located in our area.
Deputy Prosecutor of the Irkutsk Oblast Gennady Pirva noted that the problems related to the prevention of violations of environmental legislation are now the most acute. After all, it is one thing to deal with the consequences, it is another thing to prevent the very fact of causing harm to nature. And this work is important and difficult.
– The legislation in the field of environmental safety itself is quite detailed, multi-layered, stressed. – But every time problems arise in the field of practical activity: from proving a crime to the proportionality of the degree of punishment and its impact on the prevention of this type of crime in general.
Difficulties in investigating environmental crimes
One of the most effective measures against offenders is criminal liability. However, according to statistics, since 2010, the number of crimes in the field of ecology, defined in Chapter 26 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation, has decreased sharply. The professor of the Department of Criminal Law of the University of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation spoke about it Yulia Tymoshenko:
– Studies show that tackling environmental crime is unfortunately not a priority in law enforcement activities. There are reasons for this. Most of the crimes – 60% – are classified as minor, despite the increased level of public risk. 27.5% – crimes of medium gravity, 12.5% - serious. It is difficult to identify the persons involved in their commission and the causal relationship. There are no immediate victims who can make a statement, as is the case, for example, with theft. In fact, we often fall victim to these cases. But we do not realize this, because the consequences of committing an environmental crime may not come immediately. And the statute of limitations here is only two years. Many difficulties arise with conducting examinations.
One of the proposals of the round table was to provide sufficient funding for laboratory support of the environmental activities of the prosecution.
Baikal needs a single body of control and supervision
He spoke about the problems of the prosecutor’s supervision regarding the implementation of the environmental legislation for the waters in the natural area of Baikal. Alena Belozercheva, and about. Head of the Law Enforcement Supervision Department for the Nature Protection of the Baikal Interregional Environmental Prosecutor’s Office (BMPP).
The BMPP controlled area includes three areas: the Irkutsk region, the Republic of Buryatia and the Trans-Baikal region. But they are partially included. Both regions and local governments regulate legislative matters within their remit. This raises the problem of uniform application of the law.
“It’s our job to ensure that regulations across the BNT are in line with the requirements of federal law. The second point is the absence of a single body that would exercise uniform powers in the assigned territory. Therefore, our proposal: the possibility of creating a single control and oversight body that will gather in its hands the oversight of the implementation of environmental legislation in the BNT, – stressed Alena Belozercheva.
Supported by a fellow Senior Assistant District Attorney for Baikal to ensure prosecutors’ involvement in civil and arbitration proceedings Andrei Popov:
– Indeed, when dealing with cases in the courts, we encounter problems that exist in the issuance of water and subsoil use permits. There are cases when such permits are issued by a government agency, however, the law provides for the obligation to do so in agreement with another agency, for example, the Ministry of Natural Resources. But the procedure is not followed, the issuance is done by one instrument bypassing the other. This applies, for example, to the use of bodies of water and sites that intersect with protected areas on the shores of Lake Baikal.
Special law enforcement practice
99% of environmental prosecutors’ lawsuits are upheld by the courts of first instance. About 90% of court decisions remain in force after appeal. In 2021, the BMPP alone revealed more than 6.5 thousand violations of the law. But for more efficient work, it must be adjusted. Thus, the environmental prosecutor of Baikal proposes to recognize the water of Lake Baikal as a strategic resource. The department believes that the issue of attracting foreign investment to Lake Baikal should be resolved at the highest level and that changes should be made to federal law.
– The physical importance and separate legal regulation of the BMPP supervised area made it necessary to formulate law enforcement practice that is not based on the experience of prosecutors in other areas by introducing new categories of claims and a consistent position of the environmental prosecutor in all cases. judicial system, noted Andrei Popov. – The events of surface water pollution as a result of the discharge of raw sewage without a permit were suppressed by the methods of coercion. Entities are responsible for setting standards for permitted disposal, evaluating activities that have a negative impact on water systems and the biological resources that live there. Water bodies were claimed from someone else’s illegal possession. The development of coastal strips and water areas has been suppressed. Agreements on the illegal use of water bodies have been challenged.
Ecological associations united in one union
The issue of environmental education was underlined by the coordinator of the round table, associate professor at the Irkutsk Law Institute Jaroslav Dicevic. Since 2010 he has been the head of the student ecological association “Law of Nature” at the university. Its activists organize and participate in many environmental events at regional and pan-Russian level and carry out environmental education activities.
– This year, the Institute started the creation of the Association of Ecological Youth Communities of the Baikal Region “EcoYouth”. It included representatives of environmental associations from the Irkutsk and Buryatia regions and has already held about ten events together. – said Jaroslav Dicevic. – We recommend the authorities, scientific and educational organizations to help create school and student ecological associations. We also draw attention to the need to adopt long-term programs aimed at developing an ecological culture in the population. These and other recommendations based on the results of our round table will be reflected in its resolution.