Ukraine court denies case against Pripyat dredging

A long and discouraging process highlights the near-impossible challenge for civil society to lodge complaints against violations of Ukraine’s environmental laws. Since spring 2020, the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine (NECU) – a partner of the Save Polesia coalition –  have been battling to challenge the Ukrainian laws that were broken during the first steps of the construction of the E40 waterway. NECU first filed a lawsuit in March 2020, to request that the contract for deepening the Pripyat river be declared invalid. In July 2020 the court refused, stating that they did not see any violations of NECU’s rights by the contested contract – NECU subsequently filed an appeal against the court’s decision. The appeal was denied in January this year.

On March 30th 2021 NECU’s lawyer successfully lodged a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court in Kyiv. After several months with little news on the case, the Supreme Court decided on June 14th to refuse to consider NECU’s cassation application. The court claims that the deadline to appeal their decision was missed, but no appeal notice stating this deadline was received by NECU. The court assumed that the decision was published in the Register of Decisions, and therefore NECU should have read it; however, this is not required by law.

Barging Past the Law

Dredging on the Ukrainian section of the Pripyat river took place over a period of three months in 2020. When dredging was launched in July 2020, the company involved, SOBI, publicly stated that their work is part of the construction of the E40 waterway. The dredging works deepened the river bed of one of Europe’s most pristine rivers to a navigable depth of 1.6 metres and width of 35 metres. All seven sites where dredging was carried out lie within the Chernobyl exclusion zone – one of the most contaminated areas of the world. The tender of almost 12 million UAH (around 410,000 EUR) was awarded to SOBI for dredging of 100,000 mof sediment. This tender was issued without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as required by Ukrainian law (Water Code and EIA law). There should have been prior assessment of the 2020 dredging activities including public participation.

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Top image is a photo of dredging works on a river in Europe by Daniel Rosengren/FZS