Māris Liopa: How to establish dialogue with someone who does not want to talk?

10.10.2017 |  Māris Liopa

Recent rain and flooding raised the issue on drainage systems and the need to keep them in a good condition. It turned out that drainage maintenance is obstructed not only by the lack of funds, but also by meaningless harmonizations and objections from professional friends of nature. For example, newspaper "Latvijas Avīze" featured an article about the plan to clean a canal in Meirāni municipality, which drains part of the rivers that formerly were drained into the lake Lubāns and part of waters from the lake itself to the river Aiviekste. Following the mandatory opinion of the three experts, an additional opinion on the cleaning impact on invertebrates was also required.

In fact, recent incessant rain once again directed our attention to what happens when people are being regarded as the elements disturbing natural harmony, but farmers, foresters, land drainage specialists, road builders, etc. – even as being potentially dangerous.

Nowadays, people and industry all around the word coexist with the nature protection interests more or less successfully. Coexistence compromises are being sought for, because it is clear that it is not possible to maintain industry meanwhile saving the same landscape as it was many centuries ago or even earlier. This landscape would have no place for modern cities, production sites, modern agriculture, asphalt roads and other infrastructure.

Moreover, I really doubt that people are willing to refuse from groomed landscapes. For example, natural environment now returns to the valley of river Abava, in which economic activity is forbidden – river banks are overgrowing with shrubs and alders. But there are some "irresponsible" people who think that it was more beautiful and better at the time when there were meadows and people had access to the river.

Unfortunately, the people willing to manage their property, which, unfortunately, is located in the valley of river Abava, are considered to be harmful by the Nature Conservation Agency (NCA), and their opinion simply shall be ignored.

Moreover, we cannot be sure that there will be no new restrictions also elsewhere. Unfortunately, the biotope or "nature census" project taking place all over Latvia also causes concern that the European Union money will be spent in a hurry and recklessly, and the project will result in "benefiting" conflicts with agricultural and forest land owners.

For example, a company has received a letter informing that “nature census interviewers” may visit its ownership within a certain period. Just like anyone else waiting for an unfamiliar person to appear in its ownership, the company in order to be present in the “interview” wants to know when it will take place. It is quite logical that gas meter will not be checked without informing the apartment owner of such a visit! However, the owner wants to be present also because he is confused – from where so many people knowledgeable about and able-to-recognize protected biotopes have suddenly appeared, people who will be able to complete the census by 2020? How are these specialists selected? Is it true that there are first-year students of higher education institutions among them? How can people with no experience be able to make professional decisions? Individual owners have concluded hunting agreements with hunters, which means that there may be both hunters and counters at the same time in the forest. Does NCA check that out? Unfortunately, there are no responses in respect to the time and date of the visit or to any other questions.

When asked about the census consequences faced by owners of agricultural and forestry land, the NCA employees are comforting that there is nothing to worry about. Does this mean that millions will be spent only to satisfy curiosity? No, I guess. The owners who have experienced several reforms do not believe in such promises, either. As owners are getting ready for the worst scenario, this is where the most unpleasant part starts – forests are being sold, often below the market price, or cut. Such a situation was observed a year earlier in Vecpiebalga and Ape, where new restrictions were planned.

By the way – census of natural values does not hinder introduction of new microreserves also in "uncounted" territories, which also raises questions about the meaning of census.
With these examples, I would like to emphasize that it is necessary to find balance between environmental requirements and land management, and the interests of different population groups should be taken into account. But then I find out that, without contacting representatives of the forestry industry or landowners, four local “seem-to-be-experts” have passed a resolution based on which a document of one voluntary certification system – FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) – was drawn up; a document which is very important for the whole forestry sector and, of course, for our country as a whole – Centralized National Risk Assessment (CNRA). A document that in fact will exclude large territories owned by private Latvian forest owners from economic activity.

Of course, I condemn the complete neglect of the pre-existing definitions, the lack of transparency in the development of CNRA and open ignorance of the interested party objections. Consultations on the risk assessment have been just a formality already at the beginning. The development of risk assessment has taken place by identifying only the views of one group of interests, not respecting the principles of democracy exalted by the FSC stating that there should be a balance among social, environmental and economic interests. These four “self-proclaimed experts", despite the lack of forestry-based conclusions and the real situation, have again drawn up a document denigrating Latvia about the habitats of protected species, biotopes and cultural and historical objects in order to form an impression that Latvia is a "failed state". However, someone has heard somewhere about the approach that was used to achieve own goals, right? It is also interesting to note that at an event organized by the FSC certification system in Riga, a high-level official of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development when asked to comment on the current forestry legislation issues, advised to contact the head of the Ornithological Society... It would be funny if it were not so senseless... And then the question of who is influenced by whom seems to get clearer to me!

I understand that perhaps there must be very serious interests that force to act in an unfair manner, not to speak with interested parties, not to listen to them and to ignore their opinion. And then to shout it out aloud gladly – what are you talking about, Latvia is not a green country at all! Europe, give us, the poor nature advocates, money for the fight against farmers, foresters and other manufacturers!

Dalīties Facebook