Our today’s guest is Marina Sergeyeva, chair of the Council of the regional branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation. “The year 2017 had initially been announced as the Year of Natural Areas of Preferential Protection, which later was extended to the Year of Ecology. Now we are using both titles, which shows that the course for the development of natural areas of preferential protection was initially set at the highest possible level. It is very important for us, because the Krasnodar region is one of the regions with the biggest number of such areas. “As on January 1, there were 372 natural areas of preferential protection of regional significance, and 6 of federal significance in the Krasnodar region. At the same time, our region is now actively developing its industrial, agricultural and transport infrastructures, and it leads to a conflict of interests. On one hand, we must preserve the unique nature; on the other hand, we may not hinder the development of the region. “I have been engaged in environmental issues for thirty years, and I can confirm that now people are showing much more interest in them. And they want to understand the legal issues, not just to act as petty-minded persons. Krasnodar residents are now more frequently defending their Constitutional right for favourable environment. A problem is that our law has elaborated no clear criteria of a ‘favourable environment’.
“I am also observing that people’s interest in ecological wellbeing sometimes becomes a small coin in the game of politics. Regretfully, civic activity is sometimes used for the sake of additional political bonuses. Activists often do not understand that a number of environmental problems can really be settled quickly and efficiently with the help of legal levers rather than rallies and loud political announcements. “In the past, many environmental activists would simply be denied access to public hearings, because [the authorities] preferred to hold them quietly, in their private interests. We spent several years to make openness of this procedure a standard. Now the municipalities, business circles and environmentalists all have understood that it’s easier to find a compromise and reach accord at preliminary negotiations than to cross swords at court.”