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Expert conference “Improvement of legal tools in the protection of the marine environment

Days after the catastrophic fire in Split in 2017, when a fire engulfed the Karepovac landfill, citizens breathed polluted air, but the Institute of Public Health in its statements did not mention the negative impact on health which have much exceeded harmful particles in the air. On the one hand, in the public was claimed that the amount of harmful particles were within the permitted values, although in the days of active fire were registered the values of PM10 particles four times higher and five times increased values of hydrogen sulfide, and on the other hand, recommendations to citizens to stay in their homes. A similar situation was repeated after the fire at the Jakuševac landfill, when citizens did not receive adequate and timely information. These are only some of the data are listed in the Ombudsman’s Report entitled “Right to Healthy Living and Climate Change in Croatia 2013-2020“, presented on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at the expert meeting on the improvement of legal tools in the protection of the marine environment organized by the Association for Nature, Environment and Sustainable Development Sunce. The expert meeting was held as part of the project Preserving the Adriatic Sea Ecosystems by Active Participation of Citizen – SEAS (link).

Statistics from the European Environment Agency record as many as 400,000 premature deaths caused by air pollution a year, and it is not negligible data according to which the World Health Organization links air pollution with premature deaths from heart attacks and strokes, lung diseases and cancer, reduced lung function, respiratory infections and asthma. In the EEA Report on Air Quality in Europe from 2020, the Republic of Croatia is among the six countries with exceeded the upper limit value of fine airborne particles. At the same time, only in the wider Split area, there is only one state measuring station, on Vis. All this information is stated in the Report of the Ombudsman, which was presented by Maja Hasanbašić from the Office of the Ombudsman at an expert meeting organized by Sunce.

In the past three years, the Office of the Ombudsperson received the first complaints from environmental associations due to the degradation of the maritime domain, and as part of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Energy investigation, it was confirmed that the seabed was degraded during the construction works for the project for which the Environmental Study was prepared.

– Solving the problem of marine litter, especially plastics, is also important for the cleanliness and protection of the Adriatic Sea. According to the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development data from 2020, the amount and composition of ingested marine waste in marine organisms, solid waste deposited on the coast, surface and seabed, and the amount, distribution and composition of microplastics on beaches and the sea surface are monitored in the Republic of Croatia. In 2020, the Marine Waste Management Plan was developed, as part of a comprehensive waste management system, but still lacks comprehensive data and assessment of the situation – the report states.

Davorin Rudolf, a professor from the Faculty of Law in Split and an expert in maritime law, in his presentation “Economic belt of the Republic of Croatia as a tool for the protection of marine ecosystems” spoke about the provisions of the former ZERP (Protected ecological-fishing belt) and their application, but also pointed out that in dealing with the marine environment and environmental protection in general, the starting point should be humanity.

Dušica Radojčić from the Green Istria Association in her presentation referred to the participation of the public in environmental protection procedures, and prof.dr.sc. Aleksandra Maganić from the Department of Civil Procedure Law at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb spoke about civil and administrative ways in environmental protection. She pointed out that the key problem is the lack of sanctions against polluters. As an example, she mentioned the idea of establishing a fund in which the financial resources of violators, ie polluters, would be paid, and which would ultimately serve to co-finance the work of organizations dealing with environmental protection.

The Head of the Department of Environmental Law of Sunce Association, Ivana Krstulović Baković, presented the SEAS project and spoke about legal tools that enable citizens to participate in environmental protection, and Hajdi Biuk, associate lawyer at the Sunce, presented some examples received via Sunce Association’s Green Phone.

The SEAS project is implemented with the financial support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway within the European Economic Area and Norwegian grants, and our project partners are WWF Adria, Green Istria Association, Urbanex d.o.o. and the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN).