Public Discussion over Church Construction Goes Unnoticed
On January 18, the administration of the Pershamajski district held a public discussion over the construction of a new church in one of the green zones of the city, without attracting wider public. “We are not obliged to invite anyone,” said an official representative.
The construction of a replica of the Polatsk Sofia Church is a burning issue in Vitebsk. Many Orthodox believers support the construction. The city budget has no money for it, but there are several sponsors, among them – the Russian Gazprom. The place for the construction was picked by the head of Gazprom Alexey Miller – a park over the Dvina River. Opponents of the construction argue that there are enough Orthodox churches in Vitebsk; it is not worth wasting money on replicas, it’s better to spend on restoration of the existing monuments of architecture; and finally, a new church would fit into a new residential area, but not in a park in the center where the nearest churches are within 200 – 500 meters.
The arguments were discussed for one hour at the meeting in the local executive committee, attended by no more than dozen people because there had not been any announcement of the event. Then, the head of the commission on the assessment of environmental impact Anatol Kandratovich called for closing up.
The jurist of Ecodom Ryhor Fiodarau says that the public discussion was scarce, and the event was badly organized. “I live in Minsk, but was interested in the case. I found out that the report on the assessment of environmental impact had been over. It was a problem to read the report – not for me, but for city residents as well.” The activist applied to organize the discussion of the report. He thinks that the authorities failed to inform the public about a possibility to hold such discussion. Then he faced with the problem that the event was organized, but people were not invited. The lawyer thinks that the procedure of holding public discussion was violated – the authorities failed to provide enough information about an important issue.
Ryhor Fiodarau thinks that the report does not illustrate the real impact of the construction on the environment. Some people say that earlier, it was told that only 50 trees in the park would be cut down; now the report indicates removal of 206 trees and 4658 square meters of grass. Instead, the authorities offer to plant 596 new trees, but it will be in other districts of the city. The activist says that true discussion should follow, and the report on environmental impact has to be reviewed.