Wild racing

The automobile competitions conducted on the shore of the Isloch showed that it was time to develop off-road rules.

It is highly unlikely that anybody will think of holding hammer throw competition in a glassware shop or for example, of kicking a ball in a picture gallery. But this is the way human beings are, they long for extreme exotic experiences, speaking generally, for something such, adrenal-driven. For sure, fans of jouncing and jolting in jeeps through off-the-road areas can talk for hours telling others how it is exciting and incomparable. Reporters on television news tried to communicate the enthusiasm and drive of the participants of the trophy-raid which was held at the beginning of April in the Volozhin district.

The competition organizers must have expected a totally different reaction on the part of television audience. But people, outraged by what they saw, started to complain to environmental protection agencies and our editors office.

The river Isloch, a habitat if some Red list fish species, suddenly became the part of the trophy-raid at the time of spawning season (April-May) when a number of bans are imposed. Some other regulations were violated as well. Fishermen are not even allowed to enter water for two months, and “bathing” vehicles is prohibited 365 days a year. Big fines are specified for the violation of the regulations approved by the President’s decree. And here: almost fifty jeeps were “subduing nature” which is undoubtedly has more value than any glassware shop. After all, it is alive!

After the critical article “Wild racing” published by the Narodnaya gazeta on April 8th, the State Inspectorate on Wildlife Protection under the President of the Republic of Belarus decided to look into the situation.

— We thoroughly investigated stated facts, - informed the Chief of the State Inspectorate Mikhail Areshko. —The person, responsible for the organization of that event, Sergey Yagodnitsin, was brought to administrative responsibility paying a fine of 30 base amounts for the violation of the environmental legislation during the trophy-raid “Isloch-2009” which was organized by ООО (Limited liability company) “Mintechavtoservis”. Yagodnitsin was relieved of his post by the order of the “Mintechavtoservis” director for the violation of the agreed program and competition regulations. To compensate damage inflicted on the environment the organizer put the race route in order and planted in the forest around 3 thousand fir saplings.

Violators got off lightly though. If sanctions had been imposed not on the individual but on the legal entity the amount of the fine would have increased up to one thousand basic amounts! But since it had been the first violation, state inspectors didn’t use drastic measures especially as the representatives of the local authorities and district environmental agencies also showed lack of legal knowledge.

Sure enough, not all the people possess thorough knowledge of the environmental protection legislation. By the way, according to estimates of international experts this legislation of our country is pretty advanced. But since lately quite a few of important additions and amendments have been introduced, those very organizers of trophy-raids, keen, as they themselves say, to be law-abiding citizens, would like to have clear guides on what is allowed and what is not.

Under the initiative of the management of the Republican non-governmental organization “Belarusian Automobile Off-Road Association”, a working meeting was held with the representatives of the Ministry of natural resources and environmental protection, Ministry of Forestry, Central Board of army, aviation and navy support NGO and other parties concerned at the State Inspectorate on wildlife protection aimed to avoid further uncontrollable development of off-road events and violations of the environmental protection legislation by their organizers and participants.

— At present Belarus lacks a single regulatory act specifying the procedure for preparation and carrying out of off-road automobile competitions, - noted in his open address deputy Chief of the State Inspectorate Viktor Butranets. – As a result, their organizers and participants often commit violations of the environmental legislation, and vehicles traveling off-roads generate negative impacts on the environment and cause significant damage to natural resources. A vivid example is competitions held in April of this year on the banks of the river Isloch in the Volozhin district.

After an hour discussion participants of the meeting agreed that it was necessary to develop a single procedure to prepare and carry out off-road automobile competitions. The Belarusian automobile off-road federation was offered to submit this question at the Ministry of Sport and Tourism.

Before the single regulatory act has been passed, at the preparation stage of off-road competitions their organizers are proposed to develop a number of documents. Among them – particular regulations of competitions which must include information about competition officials, location and time of an event, about environmental restrictions, as well as about obligations and liabilities of organizers and participants for the damage inflicted on the environment. Organizers should agree their regulations with a forestry management entity, with users of hunting grounds and fishing areas, land plots, with the local body of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, with a local executive and regulatory agency where off-road automobile event is planned.

One more mandatory document – a certificate of the competition route which is a picture of the route for automobiles put on the ground map. This certificate should also be agreed upon with the foregoing agencies.

Besides, it is specified that the competitions cannot be held at: specially protected natural areas and at the habitats of plants and animals from the Red list of endangered species; at spawning areas; at the time of the spring spawning (if a competition includes getting over water bodies), and in other cases, stipulated by the legislation. For example, when there are fires and forest visits are prohibited in the majority of regions altogether.

It is possible that to some of “wild” racing fans these bureaucratic obstacles will seem more complicated than impassable roads but nobody will allow them to “ride over” the law.