The ECHR judgment of July 13, 2017 in the case of Jugheli and Others v. Georgia (application no. 38342/05).
In 2005, the applicants were assisted in preparing the application. Subsequently, the application was communicated to Georgia.
In the case, the applicants' complaint on the lack of proper management of the operation of a thermal power plant operating in close proximity to residential premises was successfully considered. In the case there was a violation of the requirements of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
According to Article 4 (2) (b) of the Environmental Permits Act of December 15, 1996, industrial energy production, including thermal power plants, requires an environmental permit issued by the Ministry of the Environment on the basis of an environmental impact assessment and an environmental impact assessment. However, the law was applied only to industrial activities, which began after its implementation. For companies that started their industrial activities earlier, the deadline for the environmental impact assessment was set for January 1, 2009.
During the period relevant to the circumstances of the case, the applicants lived in an apartment building in the city center in close proximity (approximately 4 meters) from a thermal power plant that provided adjacent residential areas with electricity and heating. The station operated since 1939, but partially stopped generating energy in 2001 due to financial problems. According to the claimants, the hazardous activity of the station was not regulated, and as a result, the station released into the atmosphere various toxic substances that adversely affected their health.
ISSUES OF LAW
Concerning compliance with Article 8 of the Convention. Even assuming that air pollution did not cause any identifiable harm to the health of the applicants, it could make them more vulnerable to various diseases. In addition, there could be no doubt that it had a negative impact on the quality of their lives at home. Consequently, there has been an interference with the applicants' rights, which has reached a sufficient level of severity so that it can be attributed to the scope of Article 8 of the Convention.
The essence of the matter in the present case was the actual absence (until 2009) of the regulatory framework applicable to the hazardous activity of the plant and the avoidance of eliminating the air pollution that had adversely affected the rights of the claimants under Article 8 of the Convention.
In the context of implementing hazardous activities, States in particular have an obligation to create a regulatory framework adapted to the specific features of the activity, especially regarding the level of potentially affected risk. Such rules should regulate licensing, establishment, implementation and safety of activities, supervision of it, and also provide for mandatory for all stakeholders to ensure effective protection of citizens whose lives may be at risk of collateral risks. The actual absence of any legislative and administrative framework applicable to the potentially hazardous activities of the thermal power plant in the present case allowed it to function in close proximity to the applicants' housing in the absence of the necessary safeguards to avoid, or at least minimize, air pollution and its negative influence on the health and well-being of the applicants, which was confirmed by examinations appointed by the domestic courts.
The situation was exacerbated by the fact that, despite the responsibility for installing a filter and cleaning equipment at the thermal power plant to minimize the impact of toxic emissions on house occupants, the competent authorities did not take effective measures to implement this instruction. In such circumstances, the Government of the respondent State did not establish a fair balance between the public interest in the operation of a thermal power plant and the effective use of the applicants' right to respect for their home and personal life.
The violation of the requirements of Article 8 of the Convention (unanimously) was committed.
In the application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court awarded the applicants EUR 4,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.