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February 9, 2023

‘O, Christmas tree!’

A beautiful Christian tradition associates Christmas and the New Year’s Eve with carols and other Romanian traditions, like ‘Plugusorul’ (The Little Plough) and ‘Steaua Sus Rasare’ (The Star Appears in the Sky!), as well as with the Christmas tree adorned by every family, as the first symbol of future, which everybody wants to be bright. Unfortunately, this beautiful tradition today turns into its opposite. What initially signified the homage brought to the fir tree, as symbol of hope, today is equivalent to the death of fir trees. In the climate of antisocial and antinational libertinism of the last decades, Romania’s forests are considered as a wealth that belongs to nobody, so the disaster of the abusive felling of trees began and continues especially with fir trees. Like every year at the beginning of December, countless young and healthy fir trees are sold at markets throughout the country, as Christmas trees.

However, with prices soaring every winter, millions of these abusively cut trees are left unsold and end at the landfill.
But this negative reaction of the market does not matter and, year after year, the dead fir trees pile up and are left behind as an accusation of the corruption and theft widespread in Romania. This accusation amplifies in terms of both intensity and severity through the very fact that the young forests of fir trees have largely disappeared. But this did not stop the theft of trees, now adapted to a new scenario. A scenario with many interlopers – released from prisons or “candidates” to these institutions – who found new methods of getting rich. In absence of young fir trees, the interlopers climb the old trees and cut their tops and branches, which they sell as Christmas trees. Who cares that, after such an operation, coniferous trees die and remain as another accusation against the most serious forest disaster in Europe, a disaster which alas took place precisely in Romania.
And this disaster takes revenge in terms of climate, economy, energy etc. The increasingly frequent episodes of draught, catastrophic floods, hailstorms and late frost poses a threat to Romania. The severity and unpredictability of these phenomena, along with the fact that, for Romania, forests and farmland today represent the main – if not the only – economic resources, as we no longer have the industry that thrives in many countries of the EU. The vehicles necessary for a massive exchange of merchandise are unsatisfactory. The deposits of crude oil, uranium and other underground resources have been sold for scraps and the incomes they generate go abroad. Many other economic sectors are stagnating, at best. So, at the present moment, in Romania, imports outweigh exports by far, and the latter often consist in exports of the raw wood produced by illegally cutting trees long before they reach maturity.
If, at global scale, a surface equal to that of Romania is deforested each year, the pace of destroying forests is higher in our country. In the 8th decade of the last century, forests covered 24.6 pc of the surface of Romania, but today the figure has dropped under 20 pc. During the same interval, Romania had 0.24 hectares of forest per capita, twice as much as in Germany and 10 times higher than in England. Now, after the murderous disaster of its forests, Romania “tends” to align itself to Europe precisely in what it accuses itself of having committed: big errors in economy, environment, energy, climate etc. In our case, such errors are aggravated by the fact that the massive deforestations do not even provide a support to the local industry of furniture, paper or other products made of wood. The wood is exported in a raw state, often illegally, at derisory prices. This massive export of unprocessed wood contributes to the expansion of the furniture industry in Hungary, the country closely related to most of the big exporters of Romanian wood.
How was, and still is, possible this theft of one of Romania’s main resources? The most brutal blow dealt to Romanian forests was the absurd law voted in the early ‘90s on the retrocession, also through corruption, of forested areas to their former “owners,” who nevertheless are different from their present beneficiaries. This led to the nonobservance of the main provision of the law, which stipulated that all private forests are still under the incidence of the Forest Regime. Besides the massive theft of wood, operated by many interlopers, even the rightful owners infringe this legal provision and further fell trees without making any reforestation effort. The result is terrible. About one million hectares have been totally or partly deforested. If the same area had been reasonably exploited, it could have brought the country an income of EUR 10 bln.
Paradoxically, the robbing of Romanian woods has been partly supported even by the old Forest Code, hence the need for a new Code that would put an end to this crime. Some of the provisions included in the new Forest Code are adequate for protecting the forest, but the delay in enforcing the document only stimulates the theft. The caste of local traders, who amassed millions of EUR and USD exclusively from the theft of wood, does everything to delay indefinitely the enactment of the new Forest Code. Or, if not, at least to “retouch” some of its provisions which they consider too harsh. Although the new regulations are still more lenient than their equivalent from other European countries. This explains why such “moguls” are among the most active people that demand the regionalisation of Romania, so they become absolute rulers of their “estates.”
These disastrous phenomena should be integrally and rigorously punished by the law, but – here too – things go at slow pace. Meanwhile, the fir trees and oaks that were the fame of our forests are killed all year round, but especially during the winter holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, despite the old saying about the forest that is part of the Romanian’s family.

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