EDITORIAL

Drought of political thinking

Ever since twenty years ago, the specialists have been ringing quite a few alarm bells to the unjustified cease of any land improvement works in Romania. The error made by post-Revolution political decision-makers in Romania turns out to have been increasingly damaging as time goes by, Knowing, based on accurate specialist calculations that drought periods will be more and more frequent and acute in the coming decades. The precipitation regime will be increasingly contradictory, also under the pressure of uncontrolled, highly polluting human activities. Noxious gas emissions lead to global warming – the so-called green house effect – which upsets the climatic balance. In addition, abusive forest logging adds to the existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to the detriment of oxygen and of the natural equilibrium of radiations.

Because of the global warming, Romania is no longer in a temperate region of the globe as it was the case a quarter of century ago. Climate excesses are more and more accentuated and extensive. The pluviometric regime is becoming very unpredictable and uncertain, with fast and heavy rainfalls alternating with extended and ravaging periods of drought. All this sows that irrigations are absolutely necessary in Romania, that, in their absence, Romanian agriculture may not develop above subsistence levels. Risks like these are very frequent in Romania. The harvest of 2014 has been largely compromised be it because of catastrophic floods, or massive hailstone or acute drought. The recent Government decision to pay small compensations to farmers for the damages caused by the unleashed nature can hardly cover the loss.
Such contradictions – some with political roots – force small farmers to sell their little plots. We are talking about very good quality farmland thanks to its unmatched chernozem in Europe. The land sells for very low price, also unmatched in Europe. A hectare of land in Romania sells at a price that is 10-12 times lower than in Central and Western Europe. The first buyers of the approximately 2 M hectares of farmland already sold in Romania are Italians, Germans or Arabs. Whilst in the 1990Ss, many politicians came to power on the ‘We do not sell our country’ slogan, it is their organizational incapacity – also the ability of scientific prevision – that pushes the country to the condition of a semi-colony.
When they are questioned by the press on the sacrificing of the irrigation systems, politicians find excuses and provide inaccurate explanations as they often do. They either accuse the ‘strictly communist’, ‘dictatorial’, character of the Romanian land improvement programme, or invoke its ‘exaggerated scale’, hence the financial impossibility to complete it. Both ‘excuses’ are false, because the beginning of the land improvement programme, at least in theory, happened long before the communist time. In the south of Romania, the system developed at the beginning of the 20th century, when the thinking of engineer Anghel Saligny left a trace also in that domain. The irrigation system peaked in Romania in 1980, when it was a preoccupation in the entire Europe. With its roughly 3M hectares with irrigation systems in place, Romania would have been second in Europe after Spain in that department. But the financial and organizational deficit occurred in the 1990s, when the systems were destroyed and installations were robbed. Any subsequent attempts to replace them were feeble, also because of the irrecoverable loss of the over 6,000 land planning specialists. In addition, in 1990 Romania stopped producing irrigation equipment. The existing one is very obsolete and can only be replaced with costly imports.
For now, the global warming is still a relatively slow process that could be improved and mitigated by adequate government measures. Government strategies should be developed not only when the drought sets in, as it happens in Romania, but also in an anticipative manner, on longer terms. Because we have over 15M hectares of farmland. Well cultivated, this kind of land can feed about 80 M people. And yet, Romania still imports huge quantities of agri-foood produce. We all know how we got to this point. After 1989, the properties that had been forcefully merged into farms during the communist years were given back to their rightful owners. The correct principle was wrongly applied, as it managed to destroy local agricultural structures and the huge investment that had been made in land development. As a journalist, I attended the press conference of the great American farmer David Garst, who visited Romania in 1993, when he said: ‘What you did when you divided land after 1989 is a crime. You wanted to remove communism, but you installed poverty. You fragmented the land in such small areas that any of the developed Western countries would do anything to avoid them’.’
Such errors are, naturally, irreversible. However, their consequences can be lowered through a national strategy for combating and preventing the effects of global warming. Hence the undisputable use of irrigation systems. Is it true there is not enough money? Yes, that’s true, but mainly because of corruption. Because the so-called ‘smart guys’ kept buying electricity from state-owned companies at  considerably lower price tan the one they charged farmers for irrigations. That’s a first government cause for the destruction of agricultural crops.
A second cause is the short-sightedness of Romanian politicians, who are unable to see national interest above their own interest. The ideas of agricultural cooperation with strict observance of ownership are widely applies in the EU, but not in Romania, where they are unfairly attributed to communism. The association of the over 4 M small farmers could help restarting the system of irrigation at least in part, a system that, 25 years ago, would cover 3.2 M hectares. A programme of concrete measures embraced by all political parties was already drafted ten years ago. Embraced only formally. With every new government, group, clan and organized criminal interests prevailed over Romania’s fundamental interests.
These two major political errors are complemented by a third one: destruction of the forestry stock. Savage clear-logging have reached climax, pushing the country into a major ecological as well as economic imbalance. By the drought of political thinking.

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