Dnipro banks get built-up more actively with every passing year. Separate mansions turn into small towns at the very water edge. Mass media repeatedly writes and speaks about the problem, but river bank development continues. ForUm decided to find out why nobody cannot stop this large scale construction.
Banks are leaving for nowhere...

The Water Code of Ukraine forbids to construct on protected shoreline belts anything but state special-purpose objects like water power plants, dams, state roads, lighthouses, etc. The width of such belts makes 25-150 meters. 

The law forbids to build along the bank. But! Historically, the majority of Ukrainian settlements appeared along the water. Obviously, nobody is going to demolish whole cities even for the sake of river ecosystem. Thus, in 1994 developers of the Water Code introduced an amendment, according to which the width of protected shoreline belts depends on river size and already existing housing development. It means, that if  there are houses along the river bank, the width of protected shoreline belt is calculated for each case separately.

However, in practice, such amendment is a loophole to occupy some bank territory. "Villages of Kyiv region actively approve general plans on territory development. It mostly concerns villages and towns along Dnipro, Desna, Teteryiev, Irpen. With this loophole settlements occupy large river territories and justify the constructions," deputy chairman of the National ecology center Oleksiy Vasyliuk told ForUm. 

His colleague, expert of the Center Oleksandr Sokolenko underlined that Dnipro banks in Kyiv and Kyiv region no longer have protected belts. "Savage scenery remains only near water reservoirs, where landscapes are not very beautiful. The right bank in Kyiv is built-up from Zhukov island to Rzhyshchev. The same situation is observe on the left bank: territory from Osokorky to Left Bank dam is already occupied," the expert explained.

Critical situation with river banks' development is observed not only in Kyiv and Kyiv region, but along the whole course of Dnipro. "Recently I opened the satellite map to control the situation in other regions and noticed Cherkassy region, especially Zolotonosha territory. It should seem wilderness, but the Dnipro banks are almost fully occupied, plots of 2-3 hectares," Sokolenko noted.
"Moreover, they build even in Slavutych of Chernihiv region - zone of radiation pollution," the expert added. 

According to ecologists, they reveal violations almost every day. "Day by day we write dozens of complains on occupation of protected shoreline belts to Prosecutor's Offices, Interior Ministry, State Environmental Inspection, but only 20% of applications find positive responses," Vasyliuk explained.
Scientists also raise alarm. "Shoreline zones are very important for protection of water ecosystem. Thickly wooded bank is the perfect variant of protected shoreline belts," hydrogeologist Anatoliy Prytsak tells.

According to him, construction of mansions in protected shoreline zones destroys the bank itself and contaminate waters. Those luxurious houses often do not have the centralized sewage system or wastewater treatment system. All the dirt from cottages goes directly into Dnipro. "It destroys the ecosystem of the river and may cause an ecological disaster," the specialist added.
Neither law, nor control...

Looking for explanations ForUm went to the Dniprovksa ecological prosecutor's office, responsible for the protection of the principle waterway of the country.

The office blamed it on poor legislation. "36 thousand hectares (77%) of the protected shoreline belts of Dnipro, its water reservoirs and Dniprovko-Bugski basin are not mentioned in any legal acts, meaning this territory is not stipulated as protected shoreline belts," Mykhailo Pololiak, acting head of the department on advocacy of state and citizens' interests on land relations, explained.
Local authorities also do not hesitate to abuse the loophole, illegally allotting land plots and promoting river banks' development.

According to the official, the most common scheme of land occupation is to include a plot into the general plan of a town development and then to assign it for house construction. Hands-off attitude of some controlling agencies also contributes to the growth of illegal site developments.
According to Podoliak, during the inspection for June-July period of this year the Dniprovksa ecological prosecutor's office revealed ten illegally erected buildings on the territory of Hydropark. Legal actions have been instituted against three owners of cottages.The prosecutor's office insists on demolition. Other houses are waiting for their turn. Interestingly that the majority of inspected objects underwent similar inspections last year, but for some reason no violations were revealed.
Besides, the law does give controlling agencies the right to investigate into the data about contractions. "A site developer fills in the declaration on contraction and exploitation by himself, and the State Architectural and Construction Supervision is not obliged to control and confirm accuracy of the data, but only to sign the papers. Such norm causes numerous violations," Podoliak says.
As a result, instead of cows and haymowers, river banks are occupied by builders and bulldozers. "And it is almost impossible to cancel a registered declaration through court. Similar violations have been revealed on the territory of Cherkassy, Poltava and Zaporizhya regions," he notes.
In 2012,certain amendments aimed at improvement of the situation, were introduced in the legislation. Thus, the State Architectural and Construction Supervision now has the right to cancel the registration if reveals false information. However, the cabinet has not worked out the cancellation procedure yet.
Meantime, thousand of hectares on Dnipro banks get built-up. In 2012-2013 the  Dniprovksa ecological prosecutor's office challenged more than 20 illegal decision of the Kyiv city council. 25 criminals cases were instituted for violation of the land legislation, 153 petitions and 115 protests were considered, 112 acts of local authorities were cancelled and 95 state officials were brought to justice. Interregional ecological prosecutor's offices have filed 201 law suits regarding land plots of total area of 603 hectares, and courts have complied with 71 of them.

However, it takes time to settle law suits on illegal construction, as owners of houses use any means available to keep illegally obtained rights for riverside plots.   
Summing up, the conclusion seems obvious - evil lurks in offices of local authorities of cities and towns along the river. Local officials often behave like a played out landlord, but the difference is that the land does not really belong to them. Moreover, the controlling agencies are also not at their best.

However, we should not forget that such chaos occurs due to the legislation, not against it. The Water Code was written after the collapse of USSR and stipulates for realities and problems of those times, not nowadays. Gaps and inconsistencies are so many that fighting against illegal built-up of shoreline zones becomes impossible. 

Daria Schwartzman


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