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May 24, 2022

Deforestation – a worsening disaster

The destruction of forests is a contemporary cataclysm. The deadly effect of water, soil and air pollution, the weather disaster and other present-day dramas of the Earth are largely explained precisely through the destruction of forests. This phenomenon against the nature itself is so widespread and intense that even the satellites successively launched by NASA show the presence of widening gaps in the once forested areas. And the destruction amplifies also because the states of the world, in contrast to the attributes of collaboration and complementariness of efforts, are unable to completely keep their “green” commitments. If observed, these commitments would temporarily reduce the pace of industrial development, but would favour the life of the entire planet in the long run. The general pacifist climate of today, with the intense invocation of the principles of international equality and collaboration, is often disturbed in the very terms of ecology, when strongly industrialised and polluting countries buy the commitment of smaller and less developed countries to intensely use their forest potential.

This means no less than massively cutting their own forests and exporting the raw wood to markets that process it and export it at prices even 10 times higher, sometimes to the very countries that supplied the wood.The consequences of this tragic contemporary phenomenon are even worse in Romania, which is pauperised not only economically, but also in terms of legal framework, organisation capacity, politics, education a.s.o. The destruction of Romanian forests has become such a generalised and intense phenomenon that it is seen as commonplace. If 10-15 years ago, trees were massively cut especially during particularly cold winters, today the destruction became general and, implicitly, more intense. Not only the criminal networks, infiltrated even in the smallest villages, but even some structures of the state – also those pertaining to forestry – are so thoroughly dominated by illegal woodcutting operations that they have neither time, nor interest to protect and plant forests. These networks see the forest as “the mute sea” which they can abuse as they want, anytime, precisely because it is “silent.” Trees, bears and deer destroyed en masse are silent. They cannot give away their murderers. The only threat to these criminals could be posed by the forest guards that remained honest, but they are increasingly isolated and neutralised, also through shady arrangements which transformed the awarding of diplomas of forest guards, technicians and engineers into big business.These days, with winter looming around the corner, illegal tree cutting gains momentum. Counties like Harghita, Covasna, Cluj or Suceava dispute the first places in illegal deforestation. At country scale, three hectares of forest disappear almost each hour and about 7-8 pc of the total forested area disappear every year. Chainsaws are making deforestation a massive and rapid process, far beyond the reaction capacity of law enforcement institutions, also because many such incidents are condoned by the very people who should protect the forest. For such persons, the forest mainly represents a source of personal wealth, accumulated with illegal means. This explains the pressure put by factors at various levels, including political, upon the institutions that grant the diplomas of forest guard, technician, engineer, forest administration chief etc.For several years, the EU has been warning Romania over the substantial decline of its green areas, which affect the weather at continent scale. It is known that, except earthquakes, many other natural disasters – such as fire-starting draughts, the floods that ravage whole regions – can be kept under control with the help of forest. Despite disasters and international warnings, the cutting of our forests continues unabated, even at a faster pace. There is the insane money lust of those who destroy the forest with the silent approval of officials in charge, who take an interest in this disaster because the export of raw wood prevents Romanian exports – usually smaller than imports – from sinking even lower. With some of our ministers-to-be having relatives in neighbouring countries, the Romanian export of raw wood at derisory prices was able to rescue from crisis the wood industry of – let’s say – Hungary.It is said that the more than two million hectares of wood robbed during the last 18 years could have brought the country over EUR 20 bln, if reasonably exploited and processed. But would even these EUR 20 bln have justified the ecological and climate disaster resulting from deforestation? Certainly not, because the consequences of these destructions amplify in time, causing losses of human lives and countless other damages, hundreds times more important than the “benefit” of selling the wood. Even our rulers agree upon these basic conclusions, but they resort to various subterfuges in search of even more gains for themselves. This led to the new Forest Code, which favours exploiting forests instead of planting them. Some provisions define as crime only the illegal cut of more than 5 cubic metres of wood. Thus, those who successively cut 2-3 cubic metres of wood from the forest only risk fines, smaller than what they earn from selling the wood, if they pay them at all.Things went as far as, during electoral campaigns, votes are bought also by tacitly allowing people to illegally cut trees from the forest. This certainly implies the initiative of local politicians, as well as forest administration structures, some of which can be suspected of either incompetence, or favouring the criminals, at a price. Some of those in charge with such deeds blame them on the serious administrative errors made during the 1990’s, when the forested lands nationalised in 1948 were returned to their former owners. This took these areas from the administration of the state, allowing thieves and the new owners to set start a “race” about who will cut the trees faster. As this was big business, the phenomenon expanded to state-owned forest, and also attracted foreign “investors.” This new kind of investors contributes to the fact that Romania loses 7-8 pc of its forest each year, especially as in their countries of origin the total surface of green increases by the same annual percentage. When we see in Romania “miracle” initiatives aimed at reforestation, they are taken mainly by the civil society. Recently, in the Salaj County, 10,000 saplings of fir trees were planted during the largest reforestation campaign launched these years, exclusively involving pupils and students. Why only them? And why only in one county?Confronted with such questions that increasingly accuse them, our politicians “defend” themselves by accusing… the corrupt state, while they seem to forget that it was precisely them and their people that were – and are – the authors of this corrupt state.

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