Springs and autumns have become a great burden to many Romanian localities, as the precipitations specific to those seasons often turn into devastating floods that take thousands of hectares out of the farming circuit, wreak means for communications, make hills cave in and leave many rural localities stranded, shutdown from any contacts, including access to medical emergencies. What is surprising though is the quantity of precipitations is increasingly less lately, and yet, their consequences are increasingly more severe.
The explanation lies in Romanian forests, and the ecologic balance implicitly, being subjected for more than two decades now to massive deforestations, which led to the 10 M hectares of forests Romania had a few decades ago to dwindle to a mere 6.49 M now, 50 pc of which are in private hands.This is where Romania’s forestry disaster started from, the purely grounded legal substantiations of forest returns.
This put them outside the protection of forestry authorities, with many of the private forests being plundered not just by their new owners, but by wood thieves as well. Over 80 M cubic meters of wood worth an estimated 6 bln euro have been stolen from Romania’s forests between 1990 and 2011. Add to this other amateurish exploitations by the new owners for which the Forestry Code stipulations are meaningless. This explains why deforested areas in this country are three-times the areas on which new forestry plantations emerged. During 2005-2011 alone, when authorities got tougher on forestry thieves, 291,000 hectares of trees were illegally cut, while a mere 120,000 hectares were planted.The new plantations are seldom brought into limelight officially speaking, given pasturing, floods, fires and successive land sales are not to their advantage. Romanian politicians, of whom not few amassed some huge fortunes from “getting involved” in the illegal exploitation of forests, often try to distract public attention from this national plunder, assuring us that the forest “defensive” is a worldwide phenomenon.
Actually, they say, what we witness is a global cataclysm, explained, among others, by world’s great powers inability to fully stick to environmental pledges. The deadly effects that soil and air pollution, along with many more dramas visited on this Earth, among which forest destruction, make the focus of world concern. All of this is also explained by world’s intensely polluting industrial powers buy the pledge by smaller countries to increasingly “capitalize” on the forestry potential, in no other way but cutting own forests and exporting the gross wood on markets where it is industrially processed at prices tens of times higher to the very countries where the wood came from.The tragic consequences of this tragic contemporary phenomenon boosts economic poverty in Romania, so much so that wood thefts are the only source of income to many families afflicted by unemployment. And economic poverty, in its turn, fuels various other sorts of trouble, organizational, educational and even legislative. This also explains why the fines slapped on illegal tree cutters remain unpaid.Seen from this perspective, the recently launched debate of the Romanian Forestry Code is welcome, which will be included in a “big-time law”, after successive debates in all the social mediums during this month of April. Its stipulations are a lot more specific, and stricter too than those of its predecessors, towards the identity being known of those engaging in illegal tree-cutting. The sanctions will be a lot stiffer commensurate with the volume of stolen wood. The criminal sanction will no longer start with the illegal cutting of more than 5 cubic meters of wood, but apply to less than 1 cubic meter. Forestry Code regulations forbid, and rightly so, even going into the woods or the overnight transport of wood. In their turn, legal exports would be made from forestry complexes and not randomly or on the basis of abusive local decisions as until now, which provide the opportunity for some forest owners to secretly hire all sort of underground figures to cut the forest, relying on their veiled theft “ability”.Once made into law, such provisions will be welcome. Yet, will they be properly enforced, as, in this country, most often than not, the problem is not the shortage of laws, but their enforcement.
This explains why not only mafia-type networks, but state organizational structures as will, including forestry authorities, have neither the time nor the room for forest protection. They rely on the forests being “mute” to the violence against it. Although massively destroyed in the process, not only the trees, but the bears, stags deer and their cubs, and the lynx as well, which are unique in Europe, remain mum. The only threat to forest mafia could come from honest forestry authorities, dedicated to their profession, who are increasingly rare and rendered ineffectual by backstage arrangements where the purchase of forestry diplomas turned into profitable business.It got to the point that even the electoral votes are secured in exchange for allowing voters to steal wood from forests. Destroying the forests has thus turned into some unexpectedly lucrative business which lures foreign “investors” as well, who partake in Romania’s forestry area getting 7-8 pc smaller with every passing year, whereas the opposite happens in their countries of origin. All the aforesaid disastrous practices must be rigorously and fully fought against on the basis of the new Forestry Code, reason for which its current debate must be carried out throughout the judicial system as well.