The prevention and control of environmental pollution, protection against pollution for natural resources, land and water, waste management and protection against chemical accidents at Seveso plants, analysis, risk management and preventative action, as well as adapting the work of environmental protection inspections at all levels in the Republic of Serbia to the requirements of the European Union, are just some of the tasks being dealt with by the Sector for Supervision and Preventative Action in the Environment
The activities of inspections are not primarily aimed at punishing offenders, but rather also impy the educating of all stakeholders, especially companies, with the aim of preventing violations of regulations. During the last year alone, the Environmental Protection Inspectorate and the Fisheries Inspectorate acted preventatively and performed 55 preventive inspections. The educative and preventive approach taken during the first regular inspection controls of companies helps to achieve more efficient application of legal regulations.
The entities under supervision are made particularly aware of the competencies of inspectorates regarding environmental protection at the municipal, city, provincial and national levels, as well as to their obligations related to the application of the provisions of current legal regulations. The preventative action of inspectorates is achieved partly through informing the public about the work inspections, by publishing the Inspection Oversight Plan and checklists from various areas of environmental protection and fisheries. Inspectorates also conduct official advisory visits, with the aim of implementing preventative measures and other activities aimed at encouraging and supporting the legality and safety of operations, as well as actions to prevent occurrences of harmful consequences for the environment.
Official advisory visits are conducted on the basis of requests from supervised entities to operators seeking certain clarifications regarding environmental protection and their obligations in this area. The role of the inspectorates, in accordance with the annual plan and at the request of enterprises, is to provide timely and detailed information to supervised companies regarding the application of provisions of the Law on the Protection of Nature and by-laws adopted on the basis of this law. Preventative inspections, as well as official advisory visits, are also performed with managers of protected areas and operators dealing with trade in protected plant and animal species, all with the aim of determining the legality of operations.
THE CHALLENGE OF PRESERVING NATURE AND PROTECTED AREAS
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a large number of citizens seeking their peace and “salvation from the virus” in the naturally beautiful and protected areas of the Republic of Serbia. The unconscionable behaviour of tourists in protected areas, as well as in fishing areas where it is possible to disturb natural flows, often leads to the endangering of the environment. Such situations represent a challenge to implementing obligations that arise from the legal regulations of the warden service of protected area managers, users of fisheries areas, but also the inspectorates for environmental protection and fisheries. Through the joint actions of all actors in the protection and preservation of nature and habitats of plant and animal species, the previous period has seen the preventing of possible broader negative consequences of the human presence in protected areas, which could have developed into a greater danger for both citizens and the economy.
One danger is certainly the possibility of forest fires caused by the uncontrolled lighting of campfires on the territory of forest complexes, which can have unforeseeable ramifications for biodiversity. In that sense, we can cite good examples from the practise of preventative actions of the competent services aimed at protecting and improving natural resources in the form of the organised and joint actions of inspection bodies and services. Representing an additional problem is municipal waste and refuse dump by tourists in protected areas after their visits and the “consumption of nature”. Although this may be a matter of personal upbringing and the culture of living, it is still necessary to raise the awareness of individuals in order for them to treat nature more responsibly.
The unconscionable behaviour of tourists in protected areas, as well as in fishing areas where it is possible to disturb natural flows, often leads to the endangering of the environment
This anomaly can boil down to a reasonable measure of preventative action, but also permanent education with a more rigorous penal policy. Competent institutions also have a legal obligation to monitor the state of nature, such as the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia, which as a professional organisation that performs activities related to the conservation of nature in accordance with positive legal regulations. The activities of this Institute relate, in particular, to monitoring the status and assessing levels of nature conservation and the level of threat posed to wild species and their habitats, ecological corridors, keeping records on methods and volumes of use, as well as factors that endanger protected and strictly protected wild species, in order to confirm and monitor the state of their populations.
It is important to continue comprehensive work and activities on raising the awareness of citizens and the responsibility of companies to preserve a healthy environment. That is an obligation of every individual and society as a whole, while the primary task of inspection bodies is to use a preventative approach, and then the application of punitive measures, to influence adherence to legal regulations, because it is only in this way that we can preserve nature and ensure a healthy environment for future generations.