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September 28, 2020
EDITORIAL

The ecological disaster takes revenge

The Galati County and its vicinity, extending towards Tulcea and Slobozia, experience a serious tragedy these days, something that unfortunately hits Romania with increased frequency. For almost six hours, dark clouds that formed instantly unleashed a devastating torrent of water, equivalent to the amount of rain that usually falls in a 5-60 day interval: 147.5 liters on just one square metre.
The flood sent many families into the darkest despair, 9 people – including an 8 year old girl who was just about to go to school – lost their lives and the inhabitants of the region had to seek refuge on rooftops. Those too ill or old remained blocked in their homes and were only rescued when firefighters and soldiers reached them, once again proving their heroism. The raging water flooded almost 2,000 homes and razed to the ground 35… and the figures may increase, as information from the area gets updated.

It is known that, in rural regions, most houses are built from materials that have a poor resistance to water, so their agony continues until they finally collapse.
During this entire interval, the consequences of the floods can be felt incessantly. One of these is the loss of birds and animals that drowned and were carried away by water, which also destroyed the content of granaries and cellars where villagers were storing provisions for winter. Add to this the wells clogged by mud and the water pipes damaged by the torrent – where they existed – and you will have the image of disaster on a large scale. The water damaged and carried away even automobiles, which were later found kilometers downstream. In several localities, schools too fell victim to the raging forces of nature and the beginning of the new school year was postponed indefinitely.
The government sent aid to these disaster-struck regions and will continue to do it for a long time. Drinking water, food, even hot meals sometimes, clothes and footwear, mattresses and blankets for the container homes that were promptly installed, like it is always the case after such floods. The government also promised to rapidly provide support for the restoration of damaged houses, so the nearing winter do not provoke new dramas.
All these interventions are welcome, but do not solve the fundamental problem. The problem of catastrophic floods, long draught, storms and hail which ever more frequently hit much of Romania’s population. The best solution is avoiding and preventing these cataclysms. Or, at least, limiting them to exceptional situations, without their present frequency, widespread and painful. The danger of climate changes is well known and recognised everywhere, but its effects can be largely diminished, if not completely avoided. But how?
Through a thorough strategy consisting in the preservation of the natural environment. This elementary truth is unfortunately confirmed also by the political and economic errors made by Romanian governments over the last two decades. These errors led to the disaster of our forests, the first that secured the balance of natural climate. In the absence of the protection offered by forests and, through them, by mountains, hills, valleys, catastrophic floods are increasingly frequent and serious, same as the storms and hail episodes. Same goes with the draught, which remove from the productive circuit tens of thousands of hectares of farmland cultivated with grain, vine, or vegetables. This takes an increasing toll of suffering upon the inhabitants of these regions.
Thus, it is not the nature’s caprices, but the draught of Romanians governments that causes these misfortunes, so frequent these last years that our rulers are tempted to downplay them as “unavoidable” “facts of life”. Under these masks, the destruction of Romanian forests takes today the shape of an ecological cataclysm, whose tragic consequences amplify in time. The destruction of Romanian forests has become today such a generalised and intense phenomenon that it passes as current phenomenon among politicians.
If 18-20 years ago trees were cut, in minor numbers, especially during heavy winters, today the destruction phenomenon has intensified up to the deforestation of whole mountains, hills or plains. The mafia-like networks infiltrated into all – down to the smallest – rural localities, as well as some organisation structures which claim interests in forestry, are so dominated by illegal woodcutting businesses that they no longer have time or interest to replant and protect the forest that earn huge salaries to these pretended forestry structures.
The approximately 2 million hectares of forest robbed over the last 20 years could have brought the country an income exceeding EUR 15 bln, if industrially processed, instead of being exported as raw wood. But can even these EUR 15 bln justify the ecological and weather disaster resulting from the cutting of the 2 million hectares of forest? Certainly not, because the climate consequences of these “exploitations” amplify in time and provoke, as we can see today, losses of human lives and countless other damages that more than negate the “benefit” of selling the wood. Even rulers sometimes agree over these elementary conclusions. But they resort, as usually, to all kinds of subterfuges to satisfy their sick lust for getting rich. This led to the situation of the old Forest Code that favoured woodcutting, instead of replanting forests.
This turned the debate over the new Forest Code into a much-awaited moment, because the provisions of this document are more precise and stricter than the previous one, so there no longer exist unknown culprits and unpaid fines. The sanctions are harsher also in relation to the amount and quality of stolen wood. And they will criminalise the cutting of even less than 1 cubic metre of wood, unlike the present situation, when the threshold was 5 cu.m.
The new Forest Code is a welcome document. But why couldn’t we see its consequences after it was enforced? Could it be that the well-dissimulated mafia-like structures are capable to influence even the decision making authorities of the state? The ever more frequent weather disasters demand an urgent and credible response from the government.

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