The Verkhovna Rada is considering a draft law to cancel the environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure for sanitary felling. It also provides for mandatory EIA for larger areas to be reforested.
Its adoption may lead to uncontrolled deforestation, and foresters will not be held accountable for massive logging. It also stimulates the loss of Ukraine’s forest fund, as the conditions for controlling and restricting all types of clear-cutting are weakened.
This article explains the threats posed by adopting the draft law in more detail.
What is the problem?
The draft law aims to:
To cancel the EIA for sanitary felling.
1) sanitary felling will be carried out in valuable mountain forests without restrictions and other areas with rare biodiversity that do not have a nature conservation status;
2) forest users will not be held liable for possible negative environmental impacts of their activities;
3) the transparency of forest users’ activities, the possibility of public influence and control over forestry activities are reduced. The public cannot confirm information about the possible environmental impact of activities and provide suggestions and comments. The possibility to control the results of such forestry activities will disappear.
For reference: According to the State Ecological Inspectorate’s estimates, forest fires have caused damage worth UAH 1,018,487 since the beginning of the open war. In addition, 281,223 hectares of land have been deforested and felled. The damage is estimated at UAH 6,521,000.
Increase the area for forestry operations that will require an EIA, as well as the distribution of these areas according to natural zones:
- forestry in the wild zones of Ukrainian Polissya and Ukrainian Carpathians on an area of more than 150 hectares;
- Ukrainian forest-steppe on an area of more than 100 hectares;
- Ukrainian steppe and the Mountainous Crimea on more than 50 hectares.
What are the dangers?
Massive afforestation of territories without an EIA can lead to the spread of invasive plant species. This will deplete the local flora and fauna and spread pests and diseases atypical for natural and climatic zones.
As a result of global climate change, Ukraine’s natural and climatic zones are shifting to the north. Therefore, the distribution of areas by natural zones for which an EIA will be required is no longer appropriate. This may complicate Ukraine’s adaptation to the effects of climate change.
“The amendment to the law also contradicts Directive 2011/92/EU, as it does not provide for “taking all measures necessary to ensure that projects that may have significant effects on the environment are assessed before granting permission for implementation…” says Yulia Kvitka, EIA coordinator at Ecoclub.
How it used to be and what obliged foresters
According to previous legal obligations, all clear-cutting operations with an area of more than one hectare were subject to EIA. This was the only deterrent to spontaneous deforestation.
Environmental impact assessments were also required for the following:
- forestry, forestry development, on territories of 20 hectares or more or territories and objects of the nature reserve fund;
- forest plantation on more than 20 hectares, on the territories and objects of the nature reserve fund, or in their protection zones on an area of 5 hectares or more.
“That is, the area for safe afforestation was justified. Because a greater variety of biological prerequisites can characterize large areas (over 20 hectares), not all areas have the same resistance to pests and diseases of certain plant species. Therefore, in such cases, the EIA allowed us to assess possible risks, prevent them, and choose alternative options for afforestation,” says Yulia Kvitka.
Read the position of the Ecoclub (Ukrainian only):Position of the Ecoclub (8 downloads)