The roundtable took place on 4 September in Severodonetsk, Luhansk region, in the framework of the ‘Opinion Festival’, which is a magnet for people from all over Ukraine and an opportunity to develop the region through an interesting cultural and educational event, discussions, and a joint search for effective solutions to existing challenges.
The roundtable was focused on the environmental situation in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which has signs of an ecological catastrophe. The invited experts articulated the urgency of solving environmental problems in the region and their scale. The most acute environmental problems in the region are: coal mines flooding, subsidence of soil, air and water pollution, forest fires, self-sustained smoldering combustion of a coal-waste heap, landfills etc.
International humanitarian law identifies environmental crimes as a separate type of war crimes. The Truth Hounds expert Maryna Slobodyanyuk spoke about how to provide a proper legal assessment of actions that harm the environment in the context of military conflict, as well as mechanisms of taking legal action and proving liability at the international level. She also provided concrete evidence of environmental crimes that have been supported through evidence resulting from photographs, interviews with informants, and in the field observations. Maryna suggested to raise awareness of the local population by communicating that a lot of ecological problems in the region are the result of environmental crimes and violations of the international law, and not ‘just the reality local population are living in’, like many people think.
Inna Semenenko, head of many research projects on ecology of Donbas region, shared the results of monitoring the environmental situation in Donbas and spoke about the multi-vector impact of the armed conflict on the ecological situation of the region. Inna also discussed with local environmental activists how to effectively consolidate the community's efforts to fight for environment in the region.
Inna admits that low interest of the local population in environmental issues is a big problem. As a result, local government did not see improving the environmental situation as their priority task. Also, huge and dangerous problem is that both local and central governments are not monitoring changing of environmental situation in the region.
At the end of the event local NGO’s and activists agreed on planning a joint advocacy campaign aimed on developing of national strategy on how to address environmental impacts of the war in Eastern Ukraine. Also activists and ecologists decided to temporary monitor it in the region by themselves using new digital tool – ‘Схід Ecomap’. It creates possibilities to track dangerous trends in the environment of the region.