Friday, 17 July 2015

Amber rush: Ukraine is facing big problems in Polissya's environment and country's economy

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The illegal exploration of amber in the Northern Ukraine associated with corruption is reaching the scale of environmental disaster.

During the last few weeks the attention of the Ukrainian media was drawn to the places very far from the Eastern regions suffering from war. The scale of the illegal exploration of amber in the Northern Ukraine is often explained by the widespread corruption and undeveloped legislation base.

Expensive stones but easy to get

The Northern part of the country – Zhytomyr, Volyn and Rivne regions are famous for their forests, which even have given the name for the whole natural zone – Polissya (place close to the forest or following the direct translation from Ukrainian).

The soils of these forests are rich in amber, which lies very close to the soils

surface. It gives the possibility to dig for the stones with very simple tools and in one cubic meter of soil up to one kilogram of amber in form of small stones. But if you are lucky you can find a big stone weighing more than one kilogram. The amber, which is basically a fossilized soft resin originating from the prehistoric coniferous,

has been used as a jewelry stone for centuries.  

The illegal exploration of amber is generating the problems for different areas. The legal exploration is very low, from two to three tons per year comparing to the great amounts taken up from the soil illegally.

Some environmental activists name the amount of sixty tons per year but no one can tell exactly because of the many places of the illegal exploration.

One gram of amber is sold on the black marked for 3-4 dollars.

For the poor villages around the amber soil deposits it can be a good opportunity to earn some money. But the biggest part of the stones is sold on the black marked and does not reach the local budgets in form of taxes or the economic growth in the region.  

Environmentally dangerous illegal mines

The presence of many people in the forests, looking for amber severely damages the forest ecosystems. Parts of the forest are often burnt down for clearing the way for digging. The illegal miners leave the forests in such a stage that they cannot be fully recovered.

There are already many videos and aerial photos on internet, posted

by the environmental activists, where the huge parts of forests with fallen trees and washed soil can be seen.

Amber Peoples Republic is getting more attention from the local and capital politicians

The situation with the illegal mining of amber has been often called in the social media as Amber Peoples Republic to underline the resemblance with the corruption and disrespect to the Ukrainian law in the famous Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples Republics in the Ukrainian East.

Some local politicians and journalists from Kiev tried to draw the public’s attention to the situation and tried to approach the illegal mines. But they were met with the guards with weapons that do not allow outsiders getting closer to the places. The activists were also pointing out that the lack of the awareness from the local

officials can be explained by corruption.

After more and more information reached the media, some of the local officials and parliament members expressed their concerns and promised to agree on the legislation, which will give a war for establishing the mines that can extract amber in more sustainable way.  

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