The Zhykhar forest is saved! A success of environmental defense in Kharkov


Just wonderful news in the midst of dark times of war...

Submitted by Thunderbird on October 1, 2023

This is the merit of those who donated to us here for work on this international column and offline volunteer activities. We are incredibly grateful to everyone!

All over the world, grassroots activist communities stand in the way of the robbery and devastation of living space by wild predatory capitalism. Sometimes victoriously, sometimes not so much. Despite the atmosphere of fatigue and demoralization that has covered Ukraine in recent months, even in a front-line city you can join this global confrontation. And not without results!

The problem of illegal sand mining near the Zhykhar (other spellings – Zhikhar, Zhykhor) neighbourhood on the southern outskirts of Kharkov started back in the 2000s. Sometime in 2008, it was stopped due to spontaneous rallies of the population and the presence of journalists, later other gangs started it again. Around 2014, it was stopped for the same reasons after a year or a year and a half of struggle.

In the middle of summer 2023, the city council proposed to develop the sand quarry in Zhykhar on its website officially. After the public discussion, the term of which expired on August 16, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Ukraine refused to provide permission documents to Geosand LLC, which was going to destroy almost 20 hectares of pine forest. In fact, the last coniferous forest in Kharkov after the massive death of trees in another one (probably due to sand extraction too) has so far escaped becoming a desert. This was told by eco-activist Irina Kravchenko after receiving an answer to her request from the ministry:

"According to the Kharkiv General Plan, the forest in Zhykhar is a recreational zone, therefore the construction of a quarry in it contradicts the Land Code of Ukraine. There are also many contradictions in the Environment Impact Assessment Report. The impact on the flora and fauna of the Emerald Network objects has not been investigated. The report does not specify the procedure provision of the forest for the use of Geosand LLC, for its complete felling. Therefore, it is not clear on what basis Geosand LLC decided to cut something there. Also, the Report does not take into account the impact of the company's activities on the level groundwater of the surrounding residential areas.
This is already the second attempt of the company to arrange a quarry. In February of this year, the Ministry of Environment already refused Geosand to agree to the conclusion of the Ministry of Environment. Therefore, in the spring, the society began to submit a report from the Department of Internal Affairs anew. It is possible that Geosand will soon submit documents for the construction of the quarry again.
But he failed to pass this assessment. I think that this happened thanks to the efforts of caring people who wrote comments on the Report. As long as the Zhykhar forest remains for the people of Kharkiv!"

The company's attempt to get environmental impact assessment approval was thwarted by the public's early response to these devastating plans. After this information was discovered by Irina and other eco-activist Artem Prykhodko, our online magazine published a little instruction on how to express a protest to the officials in Kiev. That's why let us not exaggerate the Assembly's contribution to this matter - it was a broad mobilization of all concerned, perhaps even not only in Kharkov. Of course, this is not a direct action, but setting up tents for round-the-clock duty in the forest to block preparatory work is now impossible for objective reasons.

The area looks like a coffin, doesn't it? It would really be a funeral for ecology...

The significance of this event is much greater than meets the eye. Although the Zhykhar forest was artificially planted in the Soviet years as a plantation for harvesting wood, it has a nature conservation status. In 2019, in accordance with the Berne Convention, which was signed and ratified back in 1996, Ukraine declared the area where the Zhyhar forests are located as part of the Emerald Network of Europe. That is, part of those lands that are subject to protection for the restoration of the nature of our entire continent. And the section "Lower part of the Uda River Valley", which includes the Zhykhar forests, became a nature conservation area. The specialists have discovered the extreme importance of these lands, in particular, for the preservation of several species of migratory birds.

Approximately 900 meters from them there is another element, now part of the national ecological network, the so-called Udyan regional eco-corridor, which is recognized by scientists as the migration path for tens of thousands of several dozen species of migratory birds that fly through this eco-corridor to warm countries in autumn, and in spring – in the opposite direction. That is, both of these elements – like a crossroads for a motorist, allow animals to choose the necessary path for themselves, to survive if, for example, something happens on one of their usual paths, for example, a fire breaks out, or hostilities take place, some natural or man-made disaster. In general, migration routes, for example, of the same migratory birds, are not train tracks that they will not pass by, this is an average statistical route from which the animal can deviate in case of a change in weather conditions, some circumstances, many of the birds can stay for several hours or even days off in case of an important flight, etc. Therefore, they need not only the main eco-corridors, but also some auxiliary territories. So, the Emerald Network is an important element of nature conservation in general.

Let's continue to defend free spaces in our city! ¡No pasarán!

Finally, you also may be interested to look about our little review of the summer wave of social conflicts in other regions of Ukraine.