Is it allowed to fill the sea and the sea shore with construction material? Is it allowed to concrete sea rocks? What impact does embankment have on flora and fauna in the sea? These and other similar questions are asked by many of our citizens.
Namely, with the arrival of warmer weather, activities along the sea and on the coast begin. Thus, in recent months, we have received a large number of reports via our Green Phone service concerning the suspicion of devastation of the maritime domain. The Green Phone in Sunce has been operating since 1999. and is a free tool for all citizens who want to report an environmental problem and / or seek advice in order to better preserve and protect the environment and nature.
Since we have sent a number of complaints to the competent authorities in recent months, we have noticed that, apart from the fact that this problem of illegal devastation of maritime property is growing day by day, the actions of the competent authorities are in most cases insufficiently up-to-date, efficient and coordinated.
In order to educate the general public, to begin with, we emphasize certain legal regulations governing this matter, which are relevant in the procedure.
The Law on Maritime Property and Seaports (Article 89) stipulates that only a special and clear decision of the administrative body responsible for construction may allow the disposal of construction materials on the coast or in the sea. In doing so, this competent authority is obliged to obtain the consent of the competent authority for environmental protection, water management and the Harbor Master’s Office before making a decision. The administrative body responsible for construction works may allow the disposal of construction materials if the material has been subjected to a test of physical and chemical properties prior to disposal and if the said bodies have given their consent.
Also, the disposal of construction waste (from excavation, demolition, waste materials, etc.) is a separate problem, as it is a special category of waste that in accordance with EU Directives and the current Law on Sustainable Waste Management is not allowed to dispose of in non-compliant landfills and it needs to be shipped to a construction waste recycling yard. However, to our knowledge, there is currently no recycling yard for the acceptance of construction waste in the entire Split-Dalmatia County. This information implies that all construction materials must be disposed of in other ways, and as such they often serve precisely in the illegal filling of the sea and the coast.
How to proceed?
Art. 88 of the Maritime Property and Seaports Act encourages active involvement of citizens in environmental protection and states that anyone who notices that the maritime property is polluted is obliged to inform the nearest Harbor Master’s Office or its branch office, or the competent county.
In addition to submitting the application to the competent Harbor Master’s Office, citizens can contact the competent construction inspection and the Environmental Protection Inspectorate of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy.
Why the Environmental Inspectorate?
Namely, for all interventions that include embankment of the sea shore, deepening and drying of the seabed and construction of buildings in and at sea with a length of 50 m and more, it is mandatory to conduct an environmental assessment procedure in accordance with the Regulation on Environmental Impact Assessment. If any activities are started, a study should be made in which the impact that the planned intervention will have on the environment, and especially on marine ecosystems, will be assessed.
Embankments cause the destruction of important coastal habitats such as the seagrass settlement Posidonia (Posidonia oceanica) and the community of photophilous algae. The importance of these settlements is not only in their high productivity (it is the most productive bottom belt in the sea), but also in the fact that many marine organisms reproduce, feed and find shelter in them.
We believe that only a coordinated inspection of several bodies responsible for action and the imposition of misdemeanor sanctions against perpetrators of illegal devastation of maritime property can adequately address this problem. We are aware of the devastation of the sea and the coast in neighboring EU countries, and we should learn from bad examples accordingly.
This problem was highlighted as one of the priority environmental problems faced by civil society during the meeting with the Office of the Ombudsman in Split in April this year. At the same meeting, members of civil society also raised the issue of the so-called “Whistleblowers”, ie citizens who have been subjected to public and private pressure due to the submitted applications for the purpose of environmental protection.
Some of the reported embankments were carried out by order of local authorities, and we hereby emphasize the need for their conscientious environmentally responsible treatment as a positive example to citizens in the area of their local self-government.
Finally, we emphasize that Sunce strives to combat this problem by using legal tools that the current laws make available to us. Thus, in mid-August, a lawsuit was filed with the Administrative Court in Split for backfilling beaches at two locations in the city of Supetar, the island of Brač – Gustirna luka and Tri mosta, contrary to the Environmental Protection Act. In this case, the local government was also against such arbitrary shaping of the sea coast and recognized the harmfulness of filling with construction waste. We believe that the court will also adhere to our legal position and with its verdict will additionally educate the perpetrators, but also decision-makers on the importance of coast and submarine protection.