In the Survival Zone

15:44 21.07.11

The problem of man-made pollution and environmental degradation in the country is increasingly affecting the health of the Ukrainians. Our interview with Vladimir GONCHARENKO, the chairman of the Social movement of Ukraine “For the right of citizens to environmental safety” highlights the measures to be taken by the new government in public policy to change the current situation.

— Vladimir, in your opinion, why to solve environmental problems is so important for a full and successful state formation?
— Balanced socio-economic development of any state must be attended by creating a safe natural environment and a vital activity security, ensuring an adequate level of the environmental safety.
Economic growth can contribute to the sustainable development of the country provided that it ensures large-scale use of all the benefits which it gives in social and environmental spheres and is based on the integration of environmental protection and environmental safety objectives into the policies and practices of socio-economic development. This process must be based on an enhanced legal system.
I am sure that one of the priorities of today’s government is to regain the trust of people, construct the true law-governed state and, most importantly, guarantee healthy and long life of the Ukrainians.

— Recently, considerable progress has been made towards that goal; for example, the introduction of energy efficient technologies in production, their modernization and a series of environmental actions.
— Unfortunately, investments and technologies offered to Ukraine are not channelled at a comprehensive adjustment of existing environmental, economic and social contradictions.
This is largely due to the inefficiency of national policy, which offers the foreign investor the advantage of low-cost material resources, mediocre intelligence of Ukrainian employees and, consequently, lower salary costs, impunity for the violation of environmental law and flouting the public opinion. Such an approach only aggravates the existing situation in the country.
We should remember high level of criminality and corruption resulted in a bitter misunderstanding between the majority of poor Ukrainians (78%) and prosperous tycoons. “Informal” relationship of oligarchic capitalism with the state favored the total corruption and beyond the law human relations. In the light of present circumstances, both production and consumption are interested in the immediate satisfaction of their needs, rather than long-term development.
Everything is designed to waste existing resources, primarily, natural ones. In most cases, GDP grows by means of increasing exploitability of worn-out, technologically backward, power-consuming industries, rather than economic sectors development, which leads to even greater environmental mess.
As a result, GDP growth not only provides no well-being of the population, but also makes matters worse and does damage to life and health of people.

Do you really think these categories are so closely related?
—It is an open secret that over the past two decades the population of our country is getting smaller and smaller: instead of 52 million people, now it amounts to 46 million. In times of peace, it is an unprecedented fact. In addition, there is fivefold increase in the number of sick persons—it means nine out of ten Ukrainians. Death rate is 2-4 times higher than in Western Europe.
Brushing away critical environmental issues, especially public exposure to electromagnetic rays and poor-quality drinking water intake, putting radical environmental revolution off will lead Ukraine to the degradation and complete extinction of the population.
Therefore, the main effort of the government should be targeted specifically at the protection and preventive treatment of human health, birth of healthy generation and recovery of the whole society. Productive and long life of the nation should be the main goal and essential condition of all the changes required in the economy of Ukraine.

In your opinion, what has the greatest adverse effect on the health of the Ukrainians?
— Today, the highest risk to the health and life expectancy in Ukraine is posed by electromagnetic and ionizing radiation, poor-quality drinking water, dioxins, heavy metals, especially lead, and GM food. Is also affected by low level of health care service and unavailability of fee-for-service medicine for the majority of the Ukrainians.
Unfortunately, the environmental policies of Ukraine pursue ambitious and unrealistic goals, often in the absence of effective tools to implement thereof. The reason for declarative environmental programs and inability of laws passed is a lack of political will of Ukrainian policymakers and total corruption that penetrated all branches of the power.

The main reasons for critical environmental situation in most territories of Ukraine are:

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