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Pavlov and others v. Russia

Jurisdiction: European Court of Human Rights

Side A: Pavlov and others (Individual)

Side B: Russia (Government)

Core objectives: Under Article 8 of the ECHR, Russian governments failed to diligently address long-standing and excessive industrial air pollution and to take adequate protective measures to reduce its effects.

The applicants brought civil legal actions against 14 government agencies before the District Court and Regional Court. The applicants argued that the authorities failed to adopt measures to regulate effectively industrial activity in the area and create “sanitary protection zones” in Lipetsk. They alleged main grievances regarding industrial air pollution in Lipetsk and the failure of the authorities to protect them.

In January 2009, the District Court ruled that the levels of air pollution were high but found that the local authorities had been taking measures since 2004 to reduce air pollution in the city.

While, in the absence of medical evidence, it could not be said that the industrial air pollution had necessarily caused damage to the applicants’ health, the Court considered it established, based on other ample evidence, that living in the area marked by pollution in clear excess of applicable safety standards had exposed the applicants to an elevated risk to health. In December 2009, the Regional upheld the lower court’s ruling in full.

In August 2019 the NLSP brought a cassation appeal against the rulings of 2009. In March 2020 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld that refusal.

The applicants, relying on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life and home), submitted their complaint before the ECtHR arguing that severe industrial pollution in their town endangers their health and impaired their quality of life.

The ECtHR dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the defendants. In its assessment about the merits of the case, the Court found that there has been a violation Article 8 of the Convention in respect of all applicants. It notices that from the official reports that industrial air pollution had been the main contributing factor to the overall environmental deterioration in Lipetsk and the authorities were aware of the continuing problems.

The Court states that creating security sanitary zones is complex and requires financial, logistical, technical resources and dutiful cooperation and efforts of the parties involved in it, including the State authorities. However, the ECtHR considers that the action of the authorities was lenient in meeting tis positive duty under article 8 of the ECHR. This is shown by the absence of the authorities to enforce regulations and adopt appropriate measures to prevent or reduce pollution hazards, like the suspension of operations or close enterprises which were violating the environmental regulations.

In assessing the specific measures carried out by the defendant, the Court found that the measures taken between May 5th 1998 and the end of 2013 did not diligently address the unfavourable environmental situation in Lipetsk and thus failed in their positive obligation to protect the applicants’ right to respect for private life. The measures and policies that had been implemented after 2013 had been more targeted (especially from 2018) and had led to tangible progress in recent years in reducing the levels of industrial emissions and improving the air quality and environmental conditions in Lipetsk. Nonetheless, the environmental pollution still had to be addressed and the industrial air pollution in Lipetsk had not been sufficiently curbed, so as to prevent the residents of the city from being exposed to related health risks. The domestic authorities therefore had failed to strike a fair balance in carrying out their positive obligations to secure the applicants’ right to respect for their private life.

Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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