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The case concerned an application brought by a Russian national, Nadezhda Mikhai Fadeyeva, a resident of Cherepovets, a major steel-producing centre, north-east of Moscow.

A buffer zone had been established around the premises of the steel plant, known as the “sanitary security zone”, which was supposed to separate the plant from the town’s residential areas and delimit the areas in which pollution caused by the plant could be excessive.

However, thousands of people lived within this area, including the applicant. Under the terms of a Russian Decree of 1974, the inhabitants were to be resettled. However this was never carried out, and subsequently the applicant along with others raised a court action against the steel works in 1995, seeking resettlement outside the sanitary security zone.

Following a favourable judgement, the applicant was to be placed on a “priority waiting list” for new accommodation.

However, this made resettlement conditional on the availability of funds, reference to which was therefore deleted on appeal, and led to the issuing of an execution warrant.

However this was unable to be enforced on the discovery that there was no “priority waiting list” for people living in the security zone to obtain new housing, the applicant having been placed on a general waiting list, which was held by the court to be sufficient to secure execution of the earlier court decision.

However, following application to the ECHR in late 1999, and following a hearing on the merits in July 2004, the ECHR has now concluded that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which covers the right to respect for private and family life.

Despite the wide margin of appreciation left to Russia, the Court has held that it 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.

Failure by the Russian state to effectively prevent or regulate pollution from a steel plant has therefore been found to be a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is therefore the first time a state has been held responsible for pollution caused by a private company, signifying that governments are legally responsible for preventing serious damage to their citizens’ health even where this is caused by privately owned and run industrial installations, and therefore being a landmark decision in environment pollution cases.

For details see the link.

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