Romania is a source of vast natural beauty. It has a variety of unique landscapes; notably some of the largest remaining pristine forest in Europe, the Carpathian Mountains, and an extensive river network. This includes the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Danube Delta, and River Raul Alb. The Raul Alb is currently the first Romanian WILDRiver candidate, which originates in Retezat Wilderness, a Romanian national park and member of the European Wilderness Network.
However Romania is not without its troubles. The forest is being logged, dams are being built along the rivers, and the bears are subject to trophy hunting. Two further problems have recently come to our attention, via biologist and wild river advocate Calin Dejeu.
- Two weeks ago the government appointed state agencies to manage their protected areas. This has led to a backlash of criticism from NGOs.
- A new legal proposal from the government, which states which sections of the river are exclusion zones and which are open for development.
Please also read: Romania destroys the last free flowing river in Carpathians
New protected area management
The government has recently appointed a state agency – National Agency for Protected Areas (ANANP) – to manage Romania’s protected areas. This decision excludes NGOs and current custodians from being involved in the management, a role which NGOs having been doing with their own resources for the last 20 years, while the ‘state did nothing’, said Florin Stoican, president of administration at Vacaresti Natural Park.
Whilst the state being involved in protected area management is something the NGOs campaigned for, they did not expect the decision to be pushed through so quickly and without consultation.
The NGOs wanted such a structure to exist, but they also wanted to be part of the system. – Ovidiu Bufnila, Romanian Ornithological Society
NGOs and environmental activists have criticised the decision, both for its rapidity and also possible other motives. Currently the present custodians have been preventing controversial projects such as mining in protected areas, and the future is unknown with the park management being transferred to the state.
We need to protect the entire river
The Romanian authorities have issued a proposal about no-go areas on rivers. This was in response to infringement procedures on micro hydropower plants. It states there will be an exclusion zone, for river stretches above 1500m altitude. Additionally there will be a restriction zone for stretches between 800-1500m above sea level, which will allow only river regulation works.
But there are no regulations for the river stretches below 800m, even if they are valuable, rare, or beautiful ecosystems. The details of the regulation can be found here (in Romanian).
This is the second draft proposal for river management in Romania, over 1000 people wrote to the European Commission campaigning against the first proposal a few months ago. NGOs stated that the proposal was a critical error, and requested a participatory reevaluation of the lists of protected stretches. The first proposal included buffer and exclusion zones but did not offer protection to many rivers, including Raul Alb. Arguably this second proposal is worse as activities are permitted in the restriction zone that ‘aim to assure the safety and health of people and livestock and prevention of natural calamities’. This goes against the European Water Framework Directive. There isn’t one river in Romania that is entirely above 1500m, which means that this proposal doesn’t protect one river in its entirety.This is unbelievable! Since when is the altitude a conservation criterium, and the only one? They do not seem (do not want) to understand that a river is like an living organism. You cannot protect just a part of it, destroy the rest, and say that the part apparently not affected has a good ecological status. A river is a whole in itself, you either protect it all, or nothing.
This is unbelievable! Since when is the altitude a conservation criterium, and the only one? … They do not seem (do not want) to understand that a river is like an living organism. You cannot protect just a part of it, destroy the rest, and say that the part apparently not affected has a good ecological status. A river is a whole in itself, you either protect it all, or nothing. Calin Dejeu, Biologist and wild river advocate
Raul Alb Case Study
The Raul Alb has stretches below 800m, between 800-1500m and above 1500m. There are concerns about the future of the river for both between 800-1500m and the stretch below 800m. This is because at 643m, there is a proposal for a large fish farm project.
The European Wilderness Society is committed to protecting Europe’s last remaining Wilderness and WILDRivers. Despite ongoing challenges that the Wilderness, WILDForests and WILDRivers are exposed to, we will continue to promote nature protection, and work hard to do so in the face of challenges such as those with Romania.
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