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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Georgia

Article 29 of Georgia’s Constitution outlines rights to environmental protection. It reads:

  • “Everyone has the right to live in a healthy environment and enjoy the natural environment and public space. Everyone has the right to receive full information about the state of the environment in a timely manner. Everyone has the right to care for the protection of the environment. The right to participate in the adoption of decisions related to the environment shall be ensured by law”.
  • “Environmental protection and the rational use of natural resources shall be ensured by law, taking into account the interests of current and future generations”.

    Both provisions outline Georgia’s environmental policy and the protection of natural resources.

  • Featured Legislation

    1996: The Framework Law on Environment Protection (LEP) was signed. The LEP requires preparation of the national Strategy for Sustainable Development (SSD) and mandates the Ministry of Environment Protection Georgia to lead this process.This Law regulates legal relations in the field of environmental protection and the use of natural resources between state bodies and natural and legal persons (regardless of their ownership and organisational and legal form) throughout Georgia, including its territorial waters, airspace, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone. The main goals of this Law are to: a) determine principles and norms of legal relations in the field of environmental protection; b) protect fundamental human rights established by the Constitution of Georgia in the field of environmental protection, in particular the right to live in a healthy environment and the right to enjoy the natural and the cultural environment; c) ensure the protection of the environment and the rational use of natural resources by the State, and ensure a healthy environment in accordance with the environmental and economic interests of society and taking into account the interests of present and future generations; d) support the preservation of biological diversity and of rare, endemic and endangered species of flora and fauna typical of the country, and support the protection of, and ensure ecological balance within, the marine environment; e) preserve and protect natural landscapes and ecosystems; f) provide a legal framework for resolving common global and regional issues in the field of environmental protection; g) ensure appropriate conditions for the sustainable development of the country. The main objectives of this Law are to: a) protect and maintain a safe environment for human health; b) provide a legal framework for the protection of the environment from adverse impacts; c) ensure the maintenance or the improvement of environmental quality; d) ensure an optimum balance between (or a harmonious combination of) the environmental, economic and social interests of society; e) provide a legal framework for managing the use of natural resources, taking into consideration the principles of potentials and the sustainable development of the environment; and f) ensure the efficient functioning of the unified system of regulation of genetically modified living organisms. The main environmental principles are: the risk reduction principle; the sustainability principle; the priority principle; the user pays principle; the polluter pays principle; the biological diversity preservation principle; the waste minimisation principle; the recycling principle; the restitution principle; the environmental impact assessment principle; the public participation principle; and the information accessibility principle. Among others, the Law also provides for the protection of the climate from global changes and for the protection of the ozone layer. The Law is divided into 17 chapters and 59 articles.

    1997: The Water Law was adopted, overseeing water management and protection in an attempt to regulate all types of water bodies including groundwater.

    1999: The Forest Code was passed with amendments in 2010.  In 2011, a Law on Forest Fund Management was adopted. However, the legislation did not correspond to principles of sustainable forest management; the Code was contradictory and contained loopholes that provided the grounds for illegal logging and forest crimes.

    The Forest Code of Georgia regulates legal relations associated with tending, protection, restoration and use of the forest fund of Georgia and its resources. Its goals include: a) protecting of fundamental human rights and law enforcement in the field of forest relations; b) conducting tending, protection and restoration of forests in order to maintain and improve climatic, water regulating, protective, cultural, recreational and other natural useful properties; c) conducting tending and protection for future generations and regulating harmonized interrelations between unique natural and cultural environment and its specific components thereof including vegetation and wildlife, biodiversity, landscape, cultural and natural monuments located in forest, and the rare endangered plant species of plants, etc.; d) establishing the rights and obligations of forest users in the field of forest relations; e) meeting environmental, economic, social and cultural needs of Georgia and its population through targeted, comprehensive and rational utilisation of the forest resources, on the basis of their scientifically substantiated potential; and f) establishing the main principles of forest management. The Code is divided into eight parts and 120 articles.

    2013: The National Forest Concept was created, recognizing the strategic role of natural resources, defining the relation of the State with forests, and establishing a system of sustainable forest management.

    2013: The Legal Entity of Public Law Environmental Information and Education Centre was established. The Centre prepares training modules and organizes tailored training. In 2014 to Inspectors were trained in the inspection procedures based on the module developed by the Centre.

    2014: The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection started to develop a new law on environmental impact permitting. This law included provisions for the mandatory use of strategic environmental assessments (SEA) for plans and programmes. It transposed into the national legislation the requirements of the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, and relevant European Union legislation.

    2014: The Law on Living Modified Organisms was enacted to control the introduction of genetically modified organisms into the environment; A special unit was created in the Department of Environmental Supervision. Biodiversity Service is responsible for elaboration and implementation of biosafety policy.

    2015: The Waste Management Code was adopted to improve environmental and human health conditions throughout the country. The code addresses waste prevention measures, environmentally sound treatment of waste (like recycling and extraction of secondary raw materials, energy recovery from waste, as well as safe disposal), and introduces a waste permit system and establishes mandatory waste monitoring for industries.

    2017: The Environmental Assessment Code was introduced. It consists of eight chapters:

    • General provisions
    • Environmental Decision
    • Strategic EIA
    • Public participation in environmental decision-making contemplated under the Code
    • Assessment of transboundary environmental impact
    • Expert commission
    • Supervision and responsibilities in the field of EIAs
    • Transitional and final provisions

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • Conservation International has identified Georgia as 1 of 34 biodiversity hotspots with increased habitat loss. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has also recognized the country’s global significance due to its specific evolutionary processes and unique historical floral and faunal development. For example, Georgia’s species of finches, pipits and larks are threatened by the unsustainable use of biological resources, according to The International Union for Conservation’s Red List of Threatened Species. Songbirds in continental Europe migrate towards wintering grounds south of the Sahara and Georgia, much like Egypt, has been identified as a key player in Illegal bird hunting. Due to the inconsistent enforcement of legislation in Georgia, falconry continues unabated, along with the taking of eggs and/or chicks. The post breeding period for migratory birds is especially dangerous for select species, perpetuating  what is colloquially referred to as “bird crime,” as hunters in Georgia have been known to use illegal calling devices, in conjunction with shooting, netting and gluing.

    References and Further Reading

    Contacts

    Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture: E-mailinfo@mepa.gov.ge