4.7 C
Bucharest
November 30, 2022
EDITORIAL

The draught of Romanian governments

Year 2012 will be remembered by Romanians as a the time of cruel realities, in politics and also in terms of weather, from the floods and storms of last spring to the ongoing draught of this summer, caused by an unusually long heat wave. In urban areas, amidst concrete, glass and steel, the temperature of street asphalt often nears 70 degrees Celsius, forcing many heavy vehicles to avoid using roads from noon ‘til evening. Under their weight, the viscous asphalt forms trails and becomes unusable by smaller vehicles. At hill and mountain, scorching heat ignites the dry vegetation, so forest blazes are reported in several regions of the country, while in orchards the exfoliated branches of trees point to the sky like bones.

But the most hallucinating image is given by the southern plain of Romania, once considered the granary of Europe. Here, all crops were burnt by the long wave of tropical heat. About half of the “seas” of wheat and barley have already been damaged, while corn and sunflower have been compromised in a proportion of 80 pc. Where crops were harvested, stubble fields instantly caught fire. In some cases, the resulting smoke turned into a poisonous “fog” that hampered traffic on high-traffic roads and motorways. Contorted by surreal whirlwinds of smoke and dust, the Romanian Plain looks like a painful mirage that powerlessly tosses under the whip of a pitiless sun.In rural areas, many wells ran dry, forcing villagers to queue up at the few remaining water sources and carry buckets of the precious liquid for themselves and their animals, while leaving their gardens and orchards unattended. In the ponds that have not run dry yet, water got so hot that fish are flowing dead at the surface. Confronted with the impact of this cruel reality, farmers reasonably demanded authorities to instate the state of emergency in agriculture, but the government rejected such a move. Why? So they are not forced to pay damages to the farmers that did not insure their crops against draught. The recently promised financial help is uncertain and, probably, much inferior to the damages caused by draught.How did Romania reach this catastrophic state of alienation? When often asked this question, rulers invoke the global weather changes. Global warming is, indeed, an increasingly painful reality, provoked by pollution at worldwide scale. But it’s also true that Romania’s governments amplified this general issue, first of all by neglecting the environment. A serious mistake, amplified at countrywide level over the last decades. Today, millions are concerned to preserve the still existing patches of green, but our governments do not join this trend, by ignoring the massive and illegal actions of deforestation.This tragic discrepancy between general and individual interest has long been felt in agriculture, too. Here, the irrational use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the intensive use of land in a single-crop regime, the always prohibitive agricultural research and – above all – the destruction of the irrigation system left prey to desertification many – once fertile – areas of Romanian farmland. Mostly between the world wars, Romania was known as ‘granary of Europe’ due to its massive export of agricultural products. What about today? Today, we import on large scale the very food products resulting from agricultural products specific to Romania.Chaotic decentralisation, the expression of the arbitrary made law, produces the most dramatic internal contradictions. Even in the few cases when the irrigation system still works, it cannot be used because the investors that acquired the irrigation infrastructure from the state demand huge taxes for its use, which farmers cannot afford paying. When the Labour Ministry, in an effort to protect people against afternoon heat, demands institutions to set their working hours with population between 7-11 AM and 5-8 PM, local authorities only rarely respect this request. When experts demand authorities to forbid the road traffic of vehicles over 7.5 tons between 11 AM and 8 PM during heat waves, transport companies – closely connected to politicians, also through donations – protest and refuse to enforce this timetable. Because of the risk posed by overheated rails, trains go at low speed, so it takes 6 hours to go from Bucharest to Mangalia by intercity. Instead of apologising to passengers, the people in charge with railway companies – appointed on political criteria – suddenly had the idea of turning regional trains into… fast and intercity trains that roll as 15-20 km/h. But passengers still must pay the tickets at higher prices, corresponding to the formal speed category of each train. When, in hospitals and maternities, patients, mothers and babies suffer from heat, rulers assure us that air conditioned machines are coming, same as they did two years ago. But when will this really happen? Nobody would tell, because it’s… top secret.But the most serious situation is that created by the price hikes of agricultural products caused by the long draught of this year. Bread is the first product threatened by a price increase, although wheat was not the most affected crop this summer. Even if it was, prices should not have increased, because – like any other modern, EU member state – Romania must have a strategic reserve of wheat, equivalent to the country’s bread consumption for two years at least. A state incapable to ensure its food security risks becoming a ghost state, a colony. And real security can be ensured by boosting not only the military, but also the economic defence capacity. And food security has a prime role in it, because the military strength of a country threatened by famine collapses as well. Why don’t Romanian authorities resort to this strategic wheat reserve today, in order to keep bread price unchanged?Though politicians will not give it, there is but one simple answer: because there is no wheat reserve. Why has it disappeared, who stole it and why in a state like ours, governed by the rule of law, culprits are not held accountable? Romanian politicians avoid answering these questions. This is also the source of the following anecdote: It is said that, after Romania was offered a small European aid meant to cover the damages produced by the draught of 2007, a representative of the EU came here to see for himself the “positive consequences.” But when he came and saw the contradictions and disputes between politicians, the guest confessed: “Draught is bad, but what Romanians are doing to themselves is even worse!”

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