ukraine: people triumph over polluting factory
In 1992, for example, in the Dnipropetrovsk region - a heavily industrialised area with incredibly high levels of pollution - a Ukrainian company ISTA began constructing a car battery factory, importing equipment from Germany, where local protesters had managed to stop production.
Between 1995 and 2000, local people living near the plant began to suffer from health problems. These were confirmed by medical practitioners. A local dentist, for example,
found lead in the teeth of his child patients. In addition, former plant workers began to disclose details of bad practice. Concerned individuals tried to get the authorities and the plant management to deal with these concerns to no avail.
Friends of the Earth Ukraine helped to organise a local action group, and called a meeting in April 2000, to protest against ISTA’s infringement of environmental and human rights. Over 1,000 people turned up, including plant management, who angered the crowd by asserting that the plant was no more dangerous than a “bread shop”.
After the meeting, ISTA started legal proceedings against the action group, the local Friends of the Earth branch and the local dentist, alleging that the plant was environmentally benign and that their image was being damaged. They attempted to intimidate the activists and their supporters into submission.
In response, Friends of the Earth hired experts to collect information about the factory. They found that the plant did not have the necessary environmental expertise, and was not fulfilling its obligations to supply information to the authorities.
After Friends of the Earth publicly denounced the persecution of its members by the company, ISTA requested a meeting and the media became involved. In the end, the planned expansion of the plant was stopped, people living in the vicinity of the factory were given a satisfactory out-of-court settlement, and the entire plant management was replaced.
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