Soon, the European Parliament will vote on the final version of the EU Nature Restoration Law, which is called the environmental constitution of the European Union. According to the law, it will be forbidden to deteriorate the state of natural ecosystems, and damaged ecosystems will have to be restored.
Member countries will count a dozen conservation indices, such as the number of birds and butterflies in fields; diversity of landscapes. And they will work to increase these indicators.
The Ukrainian government, which seems to be going to the EU, on behalf of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy, which is responsible for land use, is doing the opposite.
Two draft laws developed by the Ministry of Agrarian Policy seriously worry the public. We are talking about the projects “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts Regarding Liberalization of the Land Market and Land Relations” and “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine Regarding Support of Agriculture through Land Consolidation”.
If approved, they will destroy Ukrainian nature.
What is the problem?
The first of the two draft laws provides for “liberalization of land relations”. However, in this case, the noble word “liberalization” means… deprivation of the right of communities to dispose of their land. Yes, you read that right.
According to the draft law, any farmer will be able to choose a “free” plot within the community, develop a land management project at his own expense and oblige the community to put it up for auction. The community will have no reason not to agree to such a proposal.
And what exactly is “free” land in our time? The last natural areas are pastures, steppes, meadows, peatlands, self-seeded forests. Another terrible norm for nature is the reduction of the list of especially valuable lands. Therefore, there will be even fewer of them. In addition, peatlands will lose their special use regime, which means that it will be much easier to plow them (let Europeans preserve peatlands, Ukraine does not need to prevent climate change, right?).
And what is wrong with the second project of the law? The Ministry of Agrarian Policy believes that uncultivated land between arable land should not be walked. That is, these areas of nature and field roads should be connected to the fields, so that plowing would be more convenient and economical. Therefore, the goal of the project is to increase arable land.
The European Union at one time experienced problems due to land consolidation. In order to receive larger subsidies, farmers plowed the surrounding land as much as possible, combined neighboring plots, destroying their natural boundaries.
The result is a sharp reduction in the number of birds and insects, which in one way or another affects or will eventually affect human well-being. Fortunately, the European Union has come to its senses and is introducing “green” subsidies for the restoration of areas of nature that were previously destroyed by politics.
Why should you learn from other people’s mistakes and not repeat them?
Steppes, meadows, pastures and hayfields are a home for many species of living things (steppes, for example, are necessary for a third of Red Book species to survive). In addition, these ecosystems are important for our lives, because both steppes and meadows can mitigate climate change: they absorb and retain carbon and moisture, prevent soil erosion and erosion. Each strip of nature is home to soil fauna whose role is to improve soil fertility.
Grassy ecosystems are natural pastures for livestock, they are also important for the development of beekeeping.
In the EU and the USA, the need to preserve nature is spelled out in all strategic documents. For example, each country of the European Union must create a list of protected habitats and species defined by the Habitats Directive and report on their conservation every six years.
Ukraine also declares the need to preserve grassy ecosystems. The current Law “On the Basic Principles (Strategy) of the State Ecopolicy of Ukraine until 2030” states that in 2015, pastures and hayfields accounted for 13% of the country’s area, and in 2030, this indicator should increase to 15.8%. Currently, there are reasonable doubts that this will be achieved. Because the reality is different.
|Field road and intermarriage is what the Land Consolidation Act deals with
What is actually happening with nature conservation?
During the martial law, the agricultural sector is not happy – the territories are mined, there is no financing, instead there are enough problems with exports. But the regions that were not affected by hostilities have certain “advantages”. The main one is a complete lack of control.
Imagine riparian buffers around rivers. Building and plowing 25 m around small rivers and up to 100 m around large rivers is prohibited. This rule of law and common sense is designed to preserve the water quality of rivers and prevent them from being polluted by pesticides and fertilizers. But it is enough to look at the satellite map, go outside the city, and you will see that this norm exists only on paper.
It is also a common practice when land managers honestly identify coastal protection strips in documents, but farmers look at the documents through their fingers and plow the coastal strips: the temptation to go beyond the boundaries of leased plots is too great if there is unoccupied nature nearby. That is, in addition to the environmental crime, we also have an economic one – self-grabbing of land and cultivation without paying taxes.
|Plowing of the coastal protective strip of the Udai River, for which it is 50 meters
In 2022-2023, we discovered several hundred such violations in various areas. How many culprits were brought to justice? None. After all, during martial law, scheduled inspections by state control bodies are prohibited. What about unscheduled inspections? For them, the State Environmental Inspection and the State Geocadastre “have no basis.” Sometimes they don’t have enough geographical coordinates to find the disturbed areas, so they… do nothing!
United territorial communities, which have the right to assume the functions of land use control, are in no hurry to burden themselves with unnecessary responsibility. And those who took over the functions of control invent excuses. The most original was that the river “changed its course”.
The hands of the public are also tied: the public cadastral map is still closed. The State Geocadastre and the Ministry of Agrarian Policy are not ready to discuss even its partial opening (is there something secret about providing information about agricultural land plots in the rear regions?).
In addition to all existing problems, the draft laws developed by the Ministry of Agrarian Policy will not only destroy the remnants of Ukraine’s wild nature, but will also become another stumbling block on the European integration path of our country. I would not like to lose my way in such a difficult time for the whole country…
What path will we choose?
These and similar initiatives from the authorities often have signs of personal interest. It is not surprising, because the current minister of agrarian policy, his first deputy, and deputies of the environmental committee were either owners or worked in agricultural companies and associations in the past.
However, the transformation of the state into an agrarian and raw material appendage is a step into the past; the past, which, as the war showed, must be renounced as soon as possible. And there is an alternative way.
By European standards, there is still wild nature in our country. By preserving it, Ukraine will be able not only to invest in the well-being of its citizens (for example, clean air and water are basic human needs, the satisfaction of which directly depends on the preservation of wildlife), but also to make money from climate programs within the framework of European integration (on carbon certificates, on “green” payments for the allocation of arable land for renaturalization or for the creation of permanent pastures, etc.), on ecosystem services.
Kateryna Harbarchukenvironmentalist, Peter Testov, analyst of the NGO “Ukrainian Environmental Protection Group”, specially for UP. Life
Publications in the “View” section are not editorial articles and reflect exclusively the author’s point of view.