The Project to improve the environmental rule of law in Moldova
The Project to improve the environmental rule of law in Moldova
The project (October 2012 – December 2013) has been realized with financial support of Small Democracy Grants Program of the US Embassy in Moldova. Its main goal was to help Eco-TIRAS to improve the national legislation dealing with some subjects of the environment as well as to share the international and national environmental legislation among Moldovan and Transnistrian eco-NGOs.
We also expected to solve during this project the issue of illegal in-stream mining of sand and gravel from the bottom of rivers Dniester and Prut – the widely spread commercial activity which is realizing under the Ministry of Transports supervision with the official scope to deepen river channels for navigation, but in fact – to get free construction raw materials. At the same time, extraction of sediments is prohibited by several organic laws in action.
During whole project we established a monitoring of this illegal activity by NGOs – members, situating along the Dniester River.
The activity cohered with the drafting and later – promotion of the Internal Navigation Law by the Ministry of Transports of Moldova. In our view, this law from the beginning was drafted only for the reason to create a roof for in-stream mining, because the conditions for navigation on both Moldovan rivers are bad, and social-economic assessments demonstrate that river transport in current conditions could not be profitable. But being combined with commercialization of sediments it could survive.
Initially the draft of the law On Internal Navigation monopolized the activities in the rivers by the Ministry of Transport. Later some options of impact were provided also for the Ministry of Environment. But the ban on non-reimbursable extraction of sand and gravel from the riverbed was not established. To promote such ban, Eco-TIRAS realized a campaign to inform members of the national Parliament. Each of them get a letter with the analysis of impact of non-reimbursable on river ecosystems and especially on fish reproduction and self-purification capacity of the rivers in conditions when both rivers are regulated by numerous dams and solid discharge was practically stopped 30-70 years ago.
Then we involved other environmental NGOs to the campaign and a collective letter was prepared and sent to the Parliament leadership. In parallel we informed the international environmental community and numerous scientists and NGOs from abroad sent their petitions to the Parliament. At least 60 such petitions came to the Parliament.
On later stage we also involved the CNP – National Council for Participation under Prime Minister – the consultative body composed from NGO representatives. In frames of two CNP press-conferences we noted the importance of precautionary approach to the law text. The CNP also did a declaration in relation to necessity of the Internal Navigation draft law improvement. Also the draft law became a subject of the CNP meeting with PM Vlad Filat, who promised support of CNP position.
Then during first reading of the law in Parliament (autumn 2012) some MPs (Diacov, Ivanova) raised the issue of environmental impact and corruption. In the result the Environmental Committee of the Parliament was named as co-reporter on this law.
During winter and spring 2013 Eco-TIRAS participated in several sessions of the Committee on Environment and Committee on Economy of the Parliament. Thanks to close cooperation with the Committee on Environment it accepted all proposals of Eco-TIRAS, supported by wide range of NGOs. But the Committee on Economy leading by PM party insisted that in-stream mining is a unique source of funds to maintain the navigation channels in the rivers.
In the result the second reading of the law was transposed to the political vote in favour or against the position of environmental committee leading by a communist. In the result the so named democratic majority was supported against environmentally friendly solution.
As a compromise, in the result of our insistence it was amended the art. 7(1) by the provision that works on maintaining of the navigation channel should be coordinated with the Ministry of Environment, which in practice means the additional source for corruption.
There were appeared numerous articles in newspapers related to in-strem mining:
Because of numerous publications during the campaign the in-stream mining level in Dniester was low and it was on of project outcomes.
Among other outcomes of the project are:
- monitoring of in-stream mining by NGOs, Eco-TIRAS members;
- prepared and sent case for ECHR;
- collected data for notification of the Aarhus Convention
- two seminars in Balti and Dubasari on the rule of environmental law, where 57 people participated.
At the same time we recently initiated another court case against the City Council of Orhei, which violated the rule of public for participation adopting the decision on water recycling plant in contradiction with the Aarhus Convention. 3 court sessions took place until now.
The project team involved NGOs from both Dniester banks to project implementation (monitoring of in-stream mining along the river). They get necessary experience in monitoring as well as working in a team. Eco-TIRAS get necessary experience in preparation of application to the European Court for Human Rights. Also, the group of MD NGOs took part in campaigning against adaptation of the organic law on internal navigation. Eco-TIRAS get the experience in lobbying by preparation and sharing of individual letters to MPs and participation in the permanent commissions sessions. Thanks to that activities in the Parliament was formed the non-political shared between factions opposition towards unsustainable law and each MP has a clear picture on what is necessary to change in the law. The draft for the second reading because of our activeness was postponed to spring 2013. There were organized the numerous letters from abroad to Parliament where NGOs, scientists, specialists sent dozens of e-mail messages and faxes to the Parliament to prevent adoption of the Law in current version and with concrete proposals. The evident indicator of success is a postponing of the law, which is already approved for the second reading, to spring session despite of resistance of the Ministry of transports. A set of field trips were organized to check cases of in-stream mining.
We get experience in lobbying in Parliament. The NGO established links with the profiled commission of the Parliament and became visible by other commissions and MPs. Also, other MD and TR NGOs were involved in lobbying and get experience.
Thanks to formal and informal links established in state institutions during first three months of the project the Eco-TIRAS became much more prepared for further lobbying. Among new-established partnerships can note the partnerships with WG on Environment of National Council for Participation and National NGO Council. The impact has a qualitative measurement - joint letters to decision makers, joint discussions as well as wide discussions via e-mail by web-lists. The report on the draft "On internal navigation" prepared by the Environmental Committee with our participation perfectly reflected all our proposals. Unfortunately the voting in the Parliament on this draft was fully political in favour of corrupted groups, and the law was adopted in contradiction with the Environmental Committee and our position. The amendment of Art. 7 of the draft law could be treated as a compromise between our proposal and governmental position. In our view that this compromise creates a window for potential corruption of the Ministry of Environment in future.
The project is directed to protection of public values on national level, so we expected the impact also on national level. The project activities had an impact on members of the Parliament, creating opposition to the Law draft. It permitted to postpone the adoption of the Law in second reading for spring 2013 despite of the Ministry of Transport resistance. But finally we lost because the majority parties clearly reflected the anti-environmental corruption groups inside and outside the parliament.
The number of direct beneficiaries for now is 277. This includes people from NGOs involved as well as members of the Parliament covered by the project as well as seminars participants.
Also one day during Eco-TIRAS Dniester Youth Summer School 2013 was dedicated to access to justice in environmental matters. 75 youngsters took part in it. http://eco-tiras.org/index.php/133-our-summer-on-the-river-dniester-2013-eco-tiras-youth-summer-school-river-festival-and-3-kayaks-expeditions
Among the lessons learned is the conclusion that despite of well developed legal framework on public participation on governmental and parliamentary levels, it is very difficult now to protect the public interests in conditions of total corruption of the political majority and high discipline inside ruling factions of the Parliament, where MPs have no right to express their own views even on the environmental issues and vote correspondingly. We observed many times that both government and parliament are ready to violate their own laws and rules in favour of existing criminal groups.