Case: Vilshyna Khutir
Essence of case: Protection of the right of the people of Vilshyna khutir (settlement in Lviv oblast) to safe and healthy environment
Region: Europe, Ukraine, Lviv oblast, Ciletz village, Vilshyna khutir
Essence of problem: Vilshyna khutir is located in the territory of Chervonograd mining-and-industrial region. Two mining enterprises – central coal enrichment factory “Chervonogradska” and mine “Vizeiska” – are located less then 300 meters from Vilashyna khutir. As the result of their activities the territory of the khutir is constantly sinking and being flooded.
Water, soil and air are polluted as a result of the coal enrichment activities. In particular, mercury, manganese, cadmium, iron and other substances were found in the water with concentration several times (or even ten times) higher then the acceptable level of concentration. This settlement has not water supply, water is delivered not regularly, and in winter it is not delivered at all, and that’s why residents of the khutir have to use polluted water. Sinking of the territory, caused by the activity of the mining enterprises, poses a constant danger for flooding, which, for example, turned the houses of people into small islands in 2002, 2002, 2005.
The case is processed on the national and international
- Administrative protection of the right to safe and healthy environment
- An appeal on declaring the territory of Vilshyna khutir as environmental emergency zone
- In-court protection of the right to safe and healthy environment, right to safe and healthy living conditions, right to housing and the right to respect for home and private life
- Protection from noise pollution – an appeal on resettlement from zone of mine ventilator influence
- Right to clean drinking water – appeal on recognition of inactivity of the factory on non-delivering of drinking water as illegal one and compensation of moral damage
- Lawsuit on denial of information against the Chief Sanitary Doctor of Ukraine of the Ministry of Health Protection of Ukraine
Administrative protection of the right to safe and healthy environment
Residents of the khutir applied to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the President of Ukraine, Ombudsman, the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Ukraine, the Ministry of Environment of Ukraine, Lviv state administration, demanding to protect their rights. As the result of numerous appeals to the appropriate state authorities, small, but continuous progress in the process of residents’ rights protection can be noticed. The result of our activity was to attract attention of the state authorities of different levels (including the Cabinet of Ministers and Ministries) to the environmental problems of Vilshyna khutir (up to that time the problems of 18 families living in Vilshyna khutir had not been noticed). Due to persistent appeals and claims, the decision was taken not to delay the protection of environmental rights of Vilshyna residents and to secure a regular water supply for the residents. And also some coasts were set to secure environmental rights of the residents of Vilshyna khutir. These persistent appeals speeded up development of the sanitary-protected zones and led to a decision to suspending the activities of the mine and factory.
An appeal on declaring the territory of Vilshyna khutir as environmental emergency zone
Following the initiative of the residents, Sillets village council applied to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, asking it to request the President of Ukraine to proclaim the territory of Silets village, Sokal region, Lviv oblast as environmental emergency zone.
The decision to declare the territory of Silets village as environmental emergency zone was not taken.
The fact of Silets village council’s appeal led to various meetings of oblast commission on technogenic-ecological safety and emergency situations, where important decisions were taken. These decisions were on protection of Vilshyna residents’ rights and securing of ecological safety, particularly protection them from flooding and provision of water.
In-court protection of the right to safe and healthy environment, right to safe and healthy living conditions, right to housing and the right to respect for home and private life
Residents of Vilshyn khutir applied to court, demanding to resettle them from the polluted area, what is sanitary-protective zone of coal enrichment factory and mine. Coal enrichment factory “Chervonogradska” and mine “Vizeiska” SE “Lvivvugillya” are defendants.
Court of the first and appeal instance rejected an appeal against coal enrichment factory. Now the case is under the second appeal consideration (consideration in the cassational instance)
Lawsuit against the mine is under consideration in the court of the first instance. Representatives of the mine admitted their obligation to resettle plaintiffs in the process of court hearing. Now we are waiting for the fulfillment of plaintiff’s claims.
Protection from noise pollution – an appeal on resettlement from zone of mine ventilator influence
The level of noise in the living territory of Soltysy khutir, Silets village, graitly exceeds the permissible level because of constant work of the ventilator of mine “Vizeiska”.
Residents of Soltysy khutir applied to the local court with suit to resettle them from zone of mine ventilator influence.
Sokal (local) region court rejected the appeal.
Appeal court of Lviv oblast reversed the decision, made by the local court, and sent the case into repeated (new) consideration to local court.
Mine “Vizeiska” appealed against ruling of appeal court of Lviv oblast.
Noise pollution causes considerable moral sufferings and non-property losses to residents, who live in zone of ventilator functioning. Because of this, they also filed a lawsuit to stop the activity of the mine and compensate moral damage.
Right to clean drinking water – appeal on recognition of inactivity of the factory on non-delivering of drinking water as illegal one and compensation of moral damage
In winter clean drinking water was not delivered to Vilshyna residents. Residents of Vilshyna khutir applied to local court to recognize inactivity on non-delivering of drinking water as illegal and compensate moral damage, caused by non-delivering of water.
Coal enrichment factory “Lvivsystemenergo” is plaintiff in the case. Oblast commission on technogenic ecological security and emergency situations obliged this factory to deliver water to residents. Now this case is under consideration in the local court.
An important positive outcome this lawsuit – the factory, having known that residents applied to court, renewed immediately to deliver water to them.
Lawsuit on denial of information against the Chief Sanitary Doctor of Ukraine of the Ministry of Health Protection of Ukraine
During 2001-2003 EPL asked information about waste pile of the coal enrichment factory, but did not obtain any answer to its requests. In May 2003 EPL applied to the Kyiv Commercial Court with lawsuit on denial of requested information by the Ministry of Health Protection of Ukraine.
As the result of this lawsuit the Ministry of Health Protection of Ukraine provided us with the full requested information before the court decision.
Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights
In September of 2003 eleven residents of Vilshyna hamlet applied to the European Court of Human Rights. On the advice of EPL’s lawyers residents opted to protect their right to safe and healthy environment by using an international instrument of human rights protection. This approach to the protection of the environment and related rights recently finds growing support among international lawyers. International courts on human rights have already affirmed their efficacy in the protection of the minimal standards for life in dignity. Moreover, within last two decades they gave a much wider substance to traditional basic human rights, interpreting them to include, for instance, the right not to be affected by an adverse effect of industrial activity.
In their claim residents alleged that although local and state authorities were aware of a catastrophic environmental situation on the hamlet and granted multiple acknowledgments of the urgent need and residents’ right to be resettled, the State did not protect their homes, private and family lives from an excessive industrial contamination produced by a state owned company. The residents claimed that state’s failure to act infringed their rights to housing and right to respect for private and family life, enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Vilshyna residents applied to the European Court of Human Rights without exhaustion of all the possible national remedies for their rights protection, because they considered that judicial protection in Ukraine is ineffective method to protect their rights. Taking into consideration the likelihood of the violation of Vilshyna residents’ rights to housing and to respect for private and family life as well as their pleading on inefficacy of national tools of protecting their rights, the European Court agreed to consider the complaint from Vilshyna residents.
In the Chamber judgment of February 10th, 2011 in the case Dubetska and Others v. Ukraine (application no. 30499/03), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: A violation of Article 8 (right to protection of private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The authorities had been aware of the adverse environmental effects of the mine and factory but had neither resettled the applicants, nor found a different solution to diminish the pollution to levels that were not harmful to people living in the vicinity of the industrial facilities. Despite attempts to penalize the factory director and to order and bring about the applicants’ resettlement, and notwithstanding that a centralized aqueduct was built by 2009 ensuring sufficient supply of fresh drinking water to the applicants, for 12 years the authorities had not found an effective solution to the applicants’ situation. There had therefore been a violation of Article 8.
The Court also held that by finding a violation of Article 8 it established the Ukrainian Government’s obligation to take appropriate measures to remedy the applicants’ situation.
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court held that Ukraine was to pay to the first five applicants jointly 32,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, and the remaining applicants jointly EUR 33,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.