Examination of witnesses (Questions 340
WEDNESDAY 8 JULY 1998
AND Mr Bob Barker
340. We had evidence a couple of weeks ago
that many of the NGOs start off with what you might call a busybody
in a locality who would then gather people around. Can the Environment
Agency do anything to encourage that? Can it have little organisations
(Mr Barker) Within Russia I am not sure it would
be appropriate for the Environment Agency to do that. They have
very much a cultural aspect. I would say that certainly part of
the Ecological Committee's funding was for going into schools
and universities and talking and educating people on the environmental
issues of their region and they did that positively. From the
programmes I saw I felt it was a very valuable contribution to
make sure that the whole population was raised in terms of their
341. In the course of what you are dealing
with, when you are talking about implementation and statutory
rules and things of this particular nature, you must touch on
the point that NGOs do play an important role in this country.
If you are dealing with water, the first people to start observing
problems are the anglers. They scream at you before you have a
chance to turn round. Is there anything of this nature, which
I think is really what we are interested in?
(Mr Barker) There is certainly a system where
any member of the public can contact the right organisation. It
may take a period of time for it to get to the Ecological Committee
for them to investigate and do something about it but there are
the local environmental committees within the overall Tomsk Ecological
Committee so they have local people they can go to, and they have
the education programme. They also have a public prosecutor who
can receive information either from industry or from members of
the public and who can decide if either industry or the Ecological
Committee is carrying out its role under the law. So there are
a number of avenuessome of them
would be perhaps bureaucratic to our way of thinkingthere
and existing. How they develop will depend on how the culture
and the market economy develops.
342. We recently, some of us, were in Brussels
and I was struck by the division that operates in the relationship
with Russia and the Ukraine and others between concerns about
nuclear issues and other environmental issues. I just wonder how
far this division is realistic and how far you might sometimes
have got the impression that, along with all the other things
we are dealing with, we are dealing with the small change of environmental
issues as far as these countries are concerned and, unless we
get the nuclear aspect right, we might as well forget it.
(Mr Barker) I can talk about the Tomsk experience
in that there will potentially be a very large change if they
exploit their natural resources to the extent they wish to and,
therefore, it is important now (and they recognise this) for them
to ensure that there is appropriate environmental regulation to
ensure that that development does not harm the environment. The
Tomsk region does have one of the largest concentrations of nuclear
power stations, and Seviersk just outside Tomsk is one of the
largest ones. The local Ecological Committees will monitor activity
in ground water and air. It is still, as I understand it today,
a State function to regulate inside the Tomsk nuclear centre and
its risks and therefore, as such, we did not talk to the national
regulators inside the Tomsk nuclear centre.
343. But did you form an opinion about this?
(Mr Barker) There is a significant issue recognised
very much within the Tomsk region that it is a factor of greater
importance which they need to develop a way forward on, but I
think that is an interaction between the oblast and the State
Protection Committee. It is an important issue.
(Dr Leinster) We are also of the opinion that
the other environmental issues which are there are also important.
It is not one or other: it is a matter of making sure that there
is a proportionate and balanced response. How you decide on that
balance and proportionality is the difficult question.
Countess of Mar
344. Is that your opinion, or the opinion
of the people in the Newly Independent States?
(Dr Leinster) That is my opinion.
345. I was going to ask you about person-to-person
but I really think you have answered that question extremely well.
I feel most encouraged that representatives of this country are
actually talking to people about these problems. When it comes
to TACIS itself though, neither of you were operating under a
TACIS umbrella, were you?
(Mr Barker) There are two Tomsk projects. The
Tomsk project which is setting up the MSc is under the TACIS-Tempus
346. The impression we got when we were
out there was that, in fact, education and the type of thing you
are doing was very good and appreciated very much by both sides.
What actually happens when you get on to the hardwareactually
designing waste disposal and that sort of thingwhere you
get in waste disposal consultants? Does that remain person-to-person,
and is it actually what you want?
(Mr Tempany) We have not really got involved in
347. Perhaps it is an unfair question.
(Mr Tempany) I think that is something on which
we would expect to be dealing with our opposite numbers in Russia
and advising them how we go about managing that and how we might
deal, for instance, with consultants and how we give them guidance,
for instance, in the use and operation of landfills and say, "That
is how we do it. Can we answer any questions on this? Can we make
it clearer?". We are offering our risk assessment packages
which they are quite interested in. It is very much about how
you manage a situation that we are trying to develop with them.
They were quite keen to say "What is your specification?
How would you completely nail this down?", and we tend to
have a site specific approach on many of the environmental problems
in this country. That is what we were saying to themthat
we had a risk approach and this is how we manage it.
348. One of the problems we found on waterworks,
for instance, was that the whole thing depended on people paying
their water rates and we gather less than 50 per cent of people
do. It struck us that the managers there were obviously very concerned
about this; they did not really understand the financing of it,
but unless they are actually paid their rates they cannot pay
their wages, can they?
(Mr Tempany) Yes. We came across one or two examples.
One that struck us personally was that within Moscow they have
just changed, as part of another World Bank project, to direct
charging for waste collection so the Moscow Waste Company charges
each apartment block. Now, some pay and some do not, and you can
walk down the street seeing which ones do and which do not and
you have areas of small compounds with shuttering behind some
of the apartments and some of those had been fired, so the net
effect of this World Bank initiative was probably to increase
pollution and risk to public health. When we were there it was
not that bad but people were actually setting fire to them and
causing risks from the fumes and so on. That is an example of
inappropriate advice from the west trying to do something that
works in Washington but not in Moscow.
349. How did you find the State Committee
for Environmental Protection? Are they easy to work with or not?
(Mr Barker) We did not work with the whole of
the Environmental Protection Committee. We worked with a number
of individualstwo directors in the waste project, and the
director of the Ecological Committee in Tomsk is a member of the
Committee. We found those people, as individuals, co-operative,
easy to work with and with an open relationship, provided one
bore in mind what I said before about being honest and open with
them. The experiences with individuals were good.
350. Could I ask a related question to that,
namely, of course, one of the important features in any assessment
of environment is the actual data and the compilation of the data.
I am not sure but do these areas actually contribute to the European
Union and the Environmental Agency data and the Dobris type of
reports? There are certain parts of the world that do make those
contributions but, if they do, how reliable are the data? Do you
have any experience of the collection of data in that particular
(Mr Tempany) I am not sure whether they contribute
to the European Agency yet but we were told that, yes, data were
supplied from the oblast to the centre but they were not sure
themselves how good the quality of this data was. In some areas
it was good but in others it did not fit in with the data that
they were getting from elsewhere and they thought it was poor
quality. It was something they were aware of, however, and technically
I think they have the ability to collect that data.
351. How much interaction do you have directly
with the European Environment Agency as an Agency?
(Dr Leinster) We have a number of contacts with
them. For example, recently we ran a joint conference between
the Environment Agency for England and Wales and the European
Environment Agency on bridging the gap and looking at this whole
question of data collection. What is appropriate data to collect;
why do you collect it; what do you do with it; what of the data
that we have been collecting in the past, for historical reasons
should we now stop collecting. So we have contact with them on
dealing with those sorts of issues, and regular contact. And there
was a board member of the Environment Agency who was also a board
member of the European Environment Agency.
352. In the light of your experience of
running courses, would you like to see greater effort in this
direction and, if so, where?
(Mr Tempany) I think we certainly enjoyed being
involved. We have ideas about how we might follow up on those
courses but it is not for us to say how much we should do of that
or in what particular direction. We are tasked by Government through
DETR in our management statement to raise the standards of environmental
regulationnot only in the UK but in Europeand to
contribute to its improvements overseas and I think this is what
we feel we have been doing. That has to be funded by taxpayers'
money and is something we would carry out in a measured way at
the moment. We have other larger priorities.
353. Can I ask a very general question?
Do you have any specific ideas or general principles, based on
your experience on working with the Russians, which this Committee
could usefully incorporate in our recommendations to the Commission?
(Dr Leinster) In general we believe there should
be a co-ordinated approach to assistance and that co-ordinated
approach should be within an overall clear project plan which
has clear and distinct objectives so we actually know why things
are being done and that those objectives support an overall strategic
approach. Along with that, there need to be clear implementation
plans on "Once you have done this project how will this then
be implemented throughout Russia". The projects need to be
viable in the long term and be demonstrably viable in the long
term and they also, we believe, need be to linked in with the
State so there need to be contacts within the State system to
ensure they are viable in the long term as well.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
354. Can you think of any examples of what
you have learned through working in Tomsk in Russia that you have
actually applied to your work back here in the UK?
(Dr Leinster) I think it re-emphasises some of
the issues like needing to have good communication. As you go
and look at other situations then you start thinking "Well,
how do we do that", so in areas like communication, from
devising policy through to implementation and how do we ensure
consistent implementation; learning or relearning or re-emphasising
for ourselves that we need to do those aspects well.
355. At a technical level, have you learned
(Mr Tempany) It is very early days. We are pleased
to establish contact and we think, from our discussions with them,
that they are very well advanced on our risk assessment packages
and modelling programmes and we would like to share those with
them, but we have only just come backour party went back
to Russia just under two weeks ago.
356. Very quickly on TACIS support, when
we had evidence from the OECD they told us there was hard feeling
in the NIS that TACIS had not translated your Agency's assessment
report into Russian. Does that criticism still hold?
(Mr Barker) I am not aware whether they have or
not. Certainly on the project in Tomsk they have a number of excellent
English speakers and some of those students at university were
going to translate some of our documentation as part of their
work but I do not know whether they have done it yetor
whether TACIS has done it yet.
357. Could I just ask you this: I can understand
why people would want to get involved in certain areas of Russia's
environmental problems but what do you see is a tangible result
of being involved in itnot in the short term but the long
term? Do you see a future that is of importance to this country?
(Mr Tempany) Yes, I think so. There are really
big steps to be made in Russia. The Russians have also made a
commitment to come into line with European directives and are,
therefore, looking to be part of a larger Europe. It was discussed
when we were in Moscow that this type of work contributed to helping
them achieve that, certainly. It is part of our direction from
the Department to improve environmental regulation standards.
There is a development in the UK to develop contacts and to put
over, with our Russian and other Eastern European partners, our
point of view so when we are in international negotiations, such
as the Basle Convention, those people will at least have a better
understanding of our viewpoint. Certainly our trip has promoted
a better understanding of how we are managing, for instance, transboundary
shipment of wastes and I think it will certainly decrease the
transboundary effects of pollution which has a tangible benefit.
358. If we look at pollution, you did touch
on the point that, in fact, much of the development was being
done with western advice. I think that was true. You were referring
to oilI think you said a Canadian chemical was coming from
the European base as a whole. One of the big problems is the historical
pollution which is evident there, which is enormous. You refer
in your remarks to 200 years of mining and things of this particular
nature, which must have a vast impact on the ecology and the groundwater
developments and things like this. Where is the emphasis going
in that second (rather than the first) part?
(Mr Tempany) We took with us several key messages.
We discussed what we wanted to say to people. We were well aware
as regulators ourselves of what we would, if you like, welcome
from another regulatory body coming infor instance, if
it was a team of Americans coming to see us. One of the things
we felt was that to stop things getting worse was a key priority
and actually to target what resources they had. We know those
resources are a problem to them. Although the Agency has on paper
what are to the Russians massive resources, we are still not able
to do everything all at once. So we were talking to them about
gathering data, which you have talked about earlier, assessing
the problems, risk-ranking and risk-assessment, so that they put
their resources to the best advantage and in a planned way.
359. Finally from my point of view, are
there any other countries in the European Union which are doing
the sorts of things you are doing from an environmental point
of view? You have mentioned Holland, but what about other countries?
(Mr Tempany) Yes, I think there are several. I
am aware that the Norwegians are heavily involved in the Baltic
StatesLatvia, Estonia, Lithuaniaand they are putting
quite a large amount of their effort there. They feel that they
can get a better improvement of their home environment or protect
their home environment better by improving the environmental standards
the other side of the Baltic Sea, particularly referring back
to the nuclear installations, by putting some effort back into
there rather than putting more money into what they feel is quite
a good situation.
Chairman: If there
are no other questions, may I, on behalf of the Committee, thank
you very much indeed. It has been extremely useful, and we have
learnt quite some useful features today. Thank you very much.