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News 08 Nov 12

Romania Vows to Restore Ravaged Forests

After loggers ravaged many forests in Romania in recent years, the authorities are planning to revive areas stripped of their vegetation by planting millions of saplings.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

“Let’s reforest the country,” an initiative of the Environment Ministry, plans to plant around 26 million saplings in November alone, mainly in areas worst affected by illegal loggers.

“Forests were always the pride of Romania, but in recent years we have witnessed their continous degradation and loss, which is why we decided to start this campaign to re-forest Romania,” the Environment Minister, Rovana Plumb, said.

Since the collapse of Communist regime back in 1990, many areas have been almost stripped of vegetation – the desolate scenery bearing witness to the impact that illegal chopping is having on Romania’s natural resources.

A recent study published by the environmental organisation Greenpeace says that Balkan forests are being cut down at an alarming rate of three hectares per hour.

More than 280,000 hectares of forest were lost in the last ten years, including virgin forests, the organisation added.

Romania still has around 6.4 million hectares of forest and 120,000 people employed in the forestry sector.

While the authorities admit illegal logging is a problem, they maintain that they are working hard to curb it and even boast of some successes.

Official statistics claim illegal logging has declined in recent years, and the government registered over 30,000 cases of illegal logging between 2009 and 2011 alone.

Before 1990, all of Romania’s forests were state-owned. A new law on retrocession was enforced, so at the end of 2010 the state owned only 66.3 per cent of the country’s forests. The ratio has since gone down further to 52.2 per cent.

Romania still has large unspoilt forests. It is home to about 65 per cent of the virgin forests still remaining in Europe, outside Russia. They are mainly situated in the mountainous Carpathian region, but only 20 per cent of these old forests are actually protected by law by being included in national parks.

The forests of Romania are the last reserve of some of the rarest mammals in Europe, such as as the brown bear, the lynx and the wolf.

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