Romania destroys last free flowing river

The following has come to our attention, which we urgently want to share with our fellow Wilderness-minded audience.

Romania is currently destroying the last free flowing river, the Jiu River, in the Carpathian Mountains by building hydropower dams. The constructions are done within Defileul Jiului National Park, which makes the whole situation even worse. The story was brought to our attention by Călin Dejeu, also known as the Romanian River Defender. As a biologist and economist he has over 20 years of experience in environmental civil society, environmental NGO and the Ministry of Environment.

Illegal with EU environmental law

The Romanian government openly supports the construction of two water dams on the Jiu river and additional two on tributaries. And this is all financed with public money. With the dams in place, the hydrographic flow of the Defileul Jiului National Park will come to a standstill. The river system is supposedly the most protected water body in the river network of Romania.

The role of the Environmental Impact Assessments is questionable.

“In Romania most Environmental Impact Assessments are questionable. They are payed directly by the project owner, so in these “studies” you can read unbelievable lies. It is written whatever the project owner wants. In this particular Environmental Impact Assessment is written that diminishing the river flow with almost 90% has a positive impact on fish.”

The constructions of dams breaches four EU Directives in this particular case. Dejeu filed an official complaint to the European Commission, yet it did nothing in response until now. Together with big NGOs from Bucharest, two lawsuits were opened and lost, showing that “…going to Court in Romania is a lottery.”

Start of a new lawsuit

In need to continue his fight, Dejeu and NGO EuroNatur joined forces. EuroNatur financed the lawyer, enabling Dejeu to open another lawsuit this month.

“The Romanian authorities (and any [EU] member state) are not allowed to deteriorate the ecological quality of a river (actually of a water body) not even with a single class on one of the quality elements. The EU law is above any national law. But the problem is the implementation. The only way to stop a member state breaching EU law is to send a complaint to the European Commission, which then to start the infringement procedure. But the Commission seems to have other priorities than dealing with this worst infringement case of EU Directives I ever heard of. ” – Călin Dejeu

Dejeu also started a petition, with already more than 28.000 signatories. However, the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the European Parliament, refused to consider it. Find the petition here.

USA removes dams, EU builds them

While EU countries finance the building of dams, in the USA the opposite is happening. Despite having influential people who still deny the overheating of our climate, the United States are removing most dams and coffers systematically.

“An environmental crime, which would be inconceivable even in the most abusive regimes of the Third World, happens in an EU country, under the indulgent gaze of the European Commission.” – Călin Dejeu

Not only Romania is destroying its rivers. Dejeu visited the Mud river in Graz, Austria. Currently a second dam is build, despite all the protests. Shockingly the government claims these actions benefit nature, under the expression of being ‘Im dialog fit der Natur’. The first dam was build with EU funding, thus supporting the destruction of European rivers.

“At least in Romania the authorities are doing their dirty job in silence, they do not pretend to help nature by killing her. If a country like Austria can not learn from its mistakes, what hope there is to the corrupt and imbecile authorities in Romania?”

WILDRivers of Europe

The European Wilderness Society is concerned about these developments, threatening the last wild rivers of Europe. We are dedicated to the protection of the last free flowing rivers, using the European Wilderness Quality Standard for WILDRivers to identify, designate, steward and protect rivers. The developments in Romania show clearly that further action is needed to protect rivers like the Jiu.

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Sign the Petition for resilient forests


90 signatures

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


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