For two weeks following the order of the Ministry of Defense farmers illegally have plowed almost half of thenature reserve «Tarutynskyi Step» area in Odesa region. According to the scientists, this area is one of the last most valuable steppe areas in Ukraine and Europe. The amount of damage is seen on the map created by themembers of the public organization «Centre for Regional Research» by means of measurements in the area.
When it goes about armed forces activity, all civilized countries that recognize environmental standards in defense area are committed to environment protection, including the issue of preserving biodiversity. With the commitment of the Chief Commanders, military men from the USA, Germany, Israel and other countries with the developed defense sector, contribute to the protection of national parks and other nature conservation areas. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y1saMH7Ubw). Contrary to this, MoD of Ukraine following the initiative of some top officials aggressively damages extremely valuable nature areas, which are recognized as such by the decisions at the level of international treaties, signed by Ukraine, often using country defense issues as a cover. More detailed analysis pins it down to mercantile interests of certain officials taking refuge in patriotic statements.
According to the map, reflecting the condition of plowed territory as of November 4, 2016, about 1300 hectares of the reserve have already been plowed and about 1300 hectares are prepared to be plowed. Thus, in the coming days half of the virgin steppe, which is the habitat for a number of endangered plant and animal species, will suffer irreversible loss, unless Ukrainian authorities stop criminal arbitrariness. It should be stressed that the reserve is included into the network of Nature Conservation Areas «The Emerald Network» that is implemented by Ukraine within the frameworks of its Eurointegration process.
In the past the territory in question, as well as neighboring territories, was a military training area with a square over 24 thousand hectares, which later was inactivated. On April 26, 2012 by the decision of Odesa Regional Council № 445-VI in some territories of the former military range was established nature reserve “Tarutynskyi Step”, one of the largest steppe reserved areas in Ukraine, which, unfortunately, comprised only 1/5 of the territory of the former military training area.
Experts estimate that natural value of Tarutynskyi Step can be greater than that of the world-known biosphere reserve «Askania-Nova». Landscape of Tarutynskyi Step is of great cultural significance as it is one of the last preserved steppe areas in Europe. The reserve is a place for many species of plants and animals which are included in the Red Book of Ukraine and habitats that are included into International Resolution 4 of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, (Bern Convention) of 1979. Fulfilling its obligations of Berne Convention Ukraine is involved in designing European network of Nature Conservation Areas – the Emerald Network. Reserve «Tarutynskyi Step» is part of this network. It should be stressed that «Tarutynskyi Step» is almost the last place in Ukraine where once can still find a rare steppe mammal – bush mouse (Sicista subtilis).
Nonetheless, MoD is of the opinion that it can use the land of Tarutynskyi reserve and concluded agreements with farmers that allow them to use some of the lands plots of the very reserve for agricultural purposes. We emphasize the point (!!!): not to renew the military training area to enhance the proficiency of soldiers of Ukrainian Armed Forces, but for commercial activity. Plowing works are very intense, agricultural machines work day and night. Overnight 3rd-4th December illegal works on steppe plowing were terminated only due to the efforts of public activists who blocked the equipment: https://www.facebook.com/rusevivan/posts/613622848823811?pnref=story
Despite personal understanding of the situation by the officials from the Ministry of Defense, nature reserve «Tarutynskyi Step» is the site of the Nature Reserve Fund of Ukraine and is protected by the current legislation. Its damage involves liability according to Article 252 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. According to the preliminary estimates, damages amount to minimum 60 mln UAH.
Tarutynо District State Administration made a stand for protection of the reserve from farmers and some military staff who do not understand modern standards of NATO army and national nature conservation legislation. The Administration filed a lawsuit to the Commercial Court of Odesa region. It insists on the on satisfaction of the lawsuit, namely on prohibiting Private Enterprise “Shans-2016” («Шанс-2016») doing any agricultural works on disputable lands until the dispute is resolved on the matter. Moreover, the major claim under the lawsuit was to recognize the agreement between Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi Apartment Management Unit of the MoD and PE «Shans».
A number of other organizations joined nature reserve protection campaign, including “Centre for Regional Research”, ICO «Еnvironment-People-Law», National Ecological Centre of Ukraine, WWF in Ukraine, National Nature Park «Tuzlovski Lymany» (“Tuzly Lagoons”) and other organizations working in Ukraine on establishing Emerald Network within the framework of Association Agreement with the EU. Also, they were joined by the People’s Deputies from the Anti-Corruption Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
The public, including both environmental lawyers and experts on flora and fauna conservation, encourage the officials from the Ministry of Defense to participate in open public dialogue aimed at terminating destruction of reserve «Tarutynskyi Step», punish those who are to blame according to the current legislation of Ukraine and restore the damaged part of its territory. At the same time it is mandatory to initiate dialogue between the experts of nature conservation, human rights advocacy groups and to engage into this dialogue heads of environmental units of NATO countries military agencies.
Photos of landscapes, flora and fauna of nature reserve «Tarutynskyi Step» (by Maksym Yakovlev) https://www.facebook.com/max.yakovlev.524/posts/1150782571704466?hc_location=ufi
Continuous information update on the topic at Oleh Djakov’s page (PO «Centre for Regional Research») https://www.facebook.com/oleg.dyakov.79
For more information contact
Centre for Regional Research
Cell phone: 094 950 19 91
NNP «Tuzlovski Lymany»
Cell Phone: 067 9564226, 095 8038535
Tel.: (032) 225-76-82
All Ukrainian PO «National Ecological Centre of Ukraine»
Cell phone: (097) 100 – 04 -7