Russian Federation
Air pollution, Human Rights, Taxation, Property, Inspections, Damages, Licences, Permits, Prevention, Remedies
The applicant in this case alleged that the operation of a steel plant in close proximity to her home endangered her health and well-being. She relied on Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Article 8 read as follows: “1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home, and his correspondence.” The applicant lived in the town of Cherepovets and approximately 450 metres from the site of the Severstal steel plant. The Government had stated in a report that the concentration of toxic substances in the town’s air exceeded the maximum permissible limits many times and that the morbidity rate of the residents was higher than the average. The applicant claimed that the concentration of toxic elements, the noise levels and the environmental situation in the zone around the plant was hazardous for humans. The court noted that Article 8 has been relied on in various cases involving environmental concern, yet it was not violated every time that environmental deterioration occurred: No right to nature preservation was as such included among the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Convention. Thus, in order to raise an issue under Article 8 the interference had to directly affect the applicant’s home, family or private life. The Court observed that over a significant period of time the concentration of various toxic elements in the air near the applicant’s home seriously exceeded the maximum permissible limits. Consequently the pollution became potentially harmful to the health and well-being of those exposed to it. It concluded that the applicant’s health deteriorated as a result of her prolonged exposure to the industrial emissions from the steel plant. The State had authorised the operation of a polluting plant in the middle of a densely populated town. It also had established that a certain area around the plant should be free of any dwelling. However, these legislative measures were not implemented in practice. It would be going too far to assert that the State was under an obligation to provide the applicant with free housing and, in any event, it was not the Court’s role to dictate precise measures which should be adopted by the States in order to comply with their positive duties under Article 8 of the Convention. In the present case, however, although the situation around the plant called for a special treatment of those living within the zone, the State did not offer the applicant any effective solution to help her move away from the dangerous area. Furthermore, the State had not designed effective measures which would take into account the interests of the local population, affected by the pollution, and which would be capable of reducing the industrial pollution to acceptable levels. The Court concluded that, despite the wide margin of appreciation left to the respondent State, it had failed to strike a fair balance between the interests of the community and the applicant’s effective enjoyment of her right to respect for her home and her private life. There had accordingly been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.