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30 Mar 2015

Belarus’ Parliament to consider bill on Aarhus Convention implementation

MINSK, 30 March (BelTA) – The House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus intends to consider the first reading of the bill on amendments to some laws of the Republic of Belarus on the environmental protection and public participation in environmental decision-making at the spring session which will start on 2 April, BelTA learned from Alla Naumchik, the deputy chairperson of the permanent commission for ecology, nature management and Chernobyl of the House of Representatives.

The MP did not rule out that the bill will pass the first reading as early as April. She explained that by adopting the bill the MPs aim to implement in the Belarusian legislation certain provisions of the Aarhus Convention (UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters). "On the recommendation of the Secretariat of the Aarhus Convention we need to strengthen the public participation in environmental decision-making. Therefore, the bill was drawn up. The concept was developed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection. We have been working on the document for almost a year,” said Alla Naumchik. Several UNDP-sponsored seminars on this topic have been held in Belarus, she added.

The bill describes the term “the public” that may participate in the making of environmentally significant decisions. The document explains which decision can be referred to this category, the form in which they need to be discussed with the public. “For example, during the discussion you will need to bring arguments rather than simply oppose. In addition, the bill describes how the public may challenge the environmentally important decisions,” Alla Naumchik said. With regard to the form of discussions, it might be a meeting, and an electronic appeal to the appropriate authority.

For the time being the bill is under discussion. Now, the parties are debating whether to include the procedure of environmental audit in the bill.

Alla Naumchik noted that in Belarus there are already some examples of public participation in decision-making in this area. The construction of one of the road posed a threat to the population of frogs as the road was initially supposed to pass along their seasonal migration route. Two biologists raised this issue and the construction was delayed. Afterwards a special passage was built for the frogs.

Belarus acceded to the Aarhus Convention about 10 years ago. The Aarhus Center opened in the country at the end of 2005, within the framework of the joint project of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and the OSCE. This institution aims to ensure the public's right to receive accurate and complete information on the state of the environment, and provides practical assistance to government institutions and employees in fulfilling their commitments to implement the provisions of the Aarhus Convention. The center makes reports on Belarus’s compliance with the provisions of the Aarhus Convention.

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