There is no doubt that Russian authorities are about to close out (liquidate) EWNC for its environmental activism including for their work regarding revealing environmental violations taken place in preparation to Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. During one of the ‘inspections’, public officers, who are supposed to maintain the rule of law, were very clear that they ‘recommended’ EWNC to stop working on comprehensive Olympic Report EWNC related to environmental degradation caused by Olympics.
EWNC along with local citizens and Greenpeace-Russia and WWF-Russia were protesting against the very idea of hosting 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. There were objective reasons to that: the subtropical environment is fragile, Sochi and virtually all of its surroundings were the territory of national park. EWNC, having a great experience in local environmental protection knew that governmental authorities are not capable in ensuring that Olympics will be held in accordance with legal national and international standards and with the principle of sustainable development. Environmentalists foreseen what actually happened in reality.
EWNC did not quit working on Olympic issues like others did. EWNC conducted public investigations and documented environmental violations in preparation to Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Today we witness the following environmental problems: devastating biodiversity loss, including threatened and endangered species because of habitat destruction, catastrophic Mzimta river pollution which is the only fresh water source for local citizens, illegal soil dumping in the Sochi National Park, illegal and most of the time badly managed household and construction waste dumping (e.g. without proper engineer protection), unique to whole Russia environment of Imeretinskaya lowland is destroyed. Lots of violations committed during Olympic constructions constitute environmental crimes ( e.g. destruction of habitat of endangered species without permit, Mzimta river pollution, etc. ) A great amount of Olympic constructions were conducted without obligatory environmental impact assessment and state ecological expertise; later, documents were prepared with a ‘passed’ date; without public participation. The most outrageous example when human rights were grossly violated is the issue of Kudepsta power plant where protests were violently oppressed, people didn’t have access to environmental information.
Thank to EWNC and its diligent environmental work, all violations are documented and people have access to this information.
Sadly, such disrespect to people and their environment is happening under the aegis of Olympic movement where environment is one of three pillars along with sports and culture. The IOC has all legal tools and powers to oversee the construction to make sure Russia is in compliance with its obligations. Instead, we see environmental disaster in the region and no accountability.
Olympic Games more often will take place in countries like Russia, China and Brasil where environmental compliance is weak. The damage might be irreparable. And it is high time for human rights and environmental NGOs to unite. There should be international pressure on hosting countries, the IOC and Olympic sponsors to organize the Games in accordance with respect to the environment and human right to a healthy environment, the IOC and hosting countries must ensure that Olympic Charter and Olympic contract are respected.
At this point of human development, Olympics is a hypocrisy. We need to change it. EWNC is already doing so.
And it is not that difficult as it can seem: public can change giant Nike’s or Apple’s policies. Why Olympics are different? Massive media coverage, protests and legal tools are available for such change and support of organizations like EWNC.
Member of EWNC