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January 25, 2022

Crimes against the forest

Weather experts from everywhere share the idea that 2012 will be the hottest year in the last 200 years. Based on this prediction, all kind of apocalyptic scenarios were born, which go all the way to prophesizing the end of the world. Some see the extinction of life on Earth as coming from the impact with a gigantic meteorite. Others – on the contrary – see this impact as being the very salvation of mankind, as it will change the earth poles and change the climate into something more harmonious than today. With Romania still being prey to a long-lasting draught, and the traditional cold wave of Epiphany being replaced by highs of 6-7 degrees Celsius, our rulers wash their hands and expect salvation to come from above.

Hiding behind this lack of responsibility, the effective causes of climate changes in our country are not only ignored, but even denied by state institutions.

A conclusive example happened during the recent winter holidays – Christmas and the New Year. A new crime was committed against Romanian forests, under the false pretext of supplying the market with Christmas trees. This disaster occurred despite the warnings launched by prestigious scientists from Romania and abroad, about the imperative of stopping these acts of cruelty and preserving the balanced climate which only the forest can secure everywhere in the world.

Romsilva, the state company in charge with forest management, has cut 82,000 young fir-trees to sell on the market in December. Considering that these trees needed 7 years to reach the height of 1 meter, this mercantile decision deprives Romsilva of much of its prestige. Another – yet bigger – crime was the fact that an even bigger number of trees were illegally cut and brought to the market. And the worst outcome of this massacre was that more than 80 pc of these slaughtered fir-trees could not be sold and ended in the trash dump. It took sanitary authorities several days to remove all this “garbage” from markets, after Christmas.

Confronted by the media about this crime against the forest, authorities hid behind the excuse that such incidents only occur once a year, between Christmas and the New Year, when European tradition consecrates the “adorned fir-tree” as symbol of prosperity during the coming year. So, according to this irresponsible opinion, it is European tradition that justifies slaughtering the forest. The blameable falseness of such “justifications” is revealed by the fact that Christmas and the New Year are not the real causes, but just the pretexts for this disaster.

The only real reason is the desire to get rich at all cost, of those that destroy the forest exclusively for their own profit. As a consequence, the disaster not only repeats each year, but does it on an ever larger scale every winter, under the impassible eye of authorities. In fact, some government officials have their own interest in destroying the forest, because Romania’s exports – which were smaller than imports for many years – were often kept alive mainly by the export of raw, unprocessed wood. With many of our forest managers having relatives abroad, in neighbouring countries, there is a reason why Romanian exports of raw wood saved from crisis the furniture industry of – let’s say – Hungary.

And there are more tricks of the same kind. For many years, the EU has been warning Romania that our green areas dwindle, and in towns they are significantly under the 26 square meters per capita provided by European rules. Romanian officials found excuses even for this situation. Until recently, when they found the solution: they covered the parks, gardens and old patches of green with layers of artificial grass. On the other hand, the real green areas of towns and cities are purposely left to decay, so they disappear “naturally” and turn into barren lands that are suitable for the construction of buildings that will further pollute the urban environment. With the wealthy construction entrepreneurs exerting their influence upon decision makers, it is no wonder that only 1 pc of the many criminal files against those that destroyed green areas found a solution in court.

As trouble never comes alone, even the Romanian parliamentarians contribute – knowingly or not – to the disaster of forests. How? By criminalising only those illegal tree cuts that exceed 5 cubic meters of wood. Hence, those who steal only 1 cubic meter of wood only risk small fines, which they can pay when they please. What is the result of this legal oversight? Long columns of carts and other vehicles travel along forest roads each day, carrying 1-2 meters of stolen wood, only risking fines that are so small, when compared to the value of the wood, that they can be considered real theft incentives. The destruction of the Romanian forest thus became a golden opportunity that lures in even foreign “investors.”

The start of this environment disaster coincides, in Romania, with the so-called retrocession of forest properties, justified by the rule of law principles. But these very principles would have imposed that the more than 2 mi­l­lion hectares returned to their former owners stay under the strict regime of forest laws. They should have been cultivated and used with a double purpose: economically, to the benefit of their new owners, and ecologically, in favour of the national territory. Deprived of this rational statute, the more than 2 million hectares were destroyed by theft. If exploited and exported rationally, at the price of proces­sed -rather than raw – wood, the more 2 million hectares of forest could have generated an income exceeding EUR 10 bln. But with things being what they were, we must pay EUR 5 bln only to replant the robbed forest areas, plus the cost of operations required be­fore saplings reach maturity: 60 years for acacia, poplar and willow; 120 years for fir, spruce and pine; over 150 years for oak forests.

It is not climate changes, but irresponsibility and theft – crimes that also involved people in official positions – that favour the imminent natural cataclysm that is so much debated today.

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