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Amendments to Russian Water Code hazardous to health and life

22 December 2014

Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia Ella Pamfilova is utterly opposed to adoption of the draft law on amendments to the Russian Water Code. Ms Pamfilova is ready to speak when this project is to be discussed at the plenary session of the State Duma.

The Commissioner addressed to Chairman of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly Sergey Naryshkin, aiming to persuade the deputies into dismissing the draft law and to exclude further initiating and sending similar ones to the State Duma.

Ms Pamfilova has based her objections on the fact that the suggested amendments to the Water Code are hazardous to health and life of people and can entail other grave consequences, up to a nationwide environmental disaster.

Pursuant to the explanatory note to the draft law, the restrictions imposed by the code deprive the federal and local budgets of additional financial sources in the form of taxes and impede business development and investments projects, allegedly infringing the rights of the business entities which due to economic reasons are located close to water.

In the meantime, the Commissioner has underscored that pursuant to Article 2 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, it is not the economic rationale of investment projects, but "man, his rights and freedoms are the supreme value".

Articles 41, 42 and 58 of the Constitution establish that everyone shall have the right to health protection and favourable environment, as well as shall be obliged to preserve nature and environment, and carefully treat natural wealth.

However, the amount of complaints received by the Commissioner regarding the above mentioned constitutional rights being violated by business entities has been ever-growing.

Thus, since 2013, there has been a situation under special control of the Commissioner: an investment project for construction of Kronoshpan plant manufacturing wood-based plates, phenolics and other gums in Ufa (Republic of Bashkortostan).

The plant wastes are to be discharged into the river located in the second belt of the drinking water extraction zone in Ufa city. This is a grave violation of the Water Code provisions which had already been binding at the time of the plant project development. The code strictly prohibited such undertaking which posed a real threat that the phenol, formaldehyde and other toxic agents would contaminate the drinking water.

"Adjustment of the project documentation in accordance with the environmental laws and further observance of the requirements by the business entity must burden the investor with significant expenses, but adjustment of federal laws to project documentation of each specific industrial entity is a nonsense — it is absolutely inadmissible and extremely dangerous for the ecosystem of the whole planet," Ms Pamfilova said in her statement.

Liberalisation of requirements imposed for the protective zones (incl. water ones) for the needs of a certain enterprise, construction of which is lucrative for investors, usually international ones, shall by no means become the tool to attract investments to the Russian Federation.

The Commissioner has underlined that the draft law writers have set aside a range of problems — among them the budget’s expenses to be spent to restore the environment and to protect the public health. This is what makes the profitability of the project questionable.

In her statement, the Commissioner’s has mentioned of the country’s ecological security and the need to tighten the requirements of ecological regulations and industrial and economic activities’ control to protect health and life of people.

The document also provides a detailed analysis of the draft laws on the merits of the issue, which discredits the draft law initiators’ reasons for the necessity of the amendments.

"The draft law initiators’ statement that it is necessary to eliminate the conflict between the Water Code of the Russian Federation and the above Sanitary Regulations and Norms also fails to stand up to criticism, since according to the legal techniques, it is the by-laws that should be brought into accordance with the federal laws, and not vice versa," the official statement says.

Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia Ella Pamfilova has underscored that such "legislative" activity is aimed purely at the lobbying of some investors’ (usually international) economic interests against the ecological situation in Russia, and therefore against health and life of its residents and many future generations, which in scale verges on the ecological sabotage.

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