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Increased road traffic is a problem in Bucharest, but this is not a reason to demolish old parts of Romania’s capital, activists say.
Protests have been ongoing for days in Bucharest, as activists fight a decision of the local mayor, who is planning to tear down an old indoor marketplace to make way for an enlarged road that will cross the capital. Many other buildings, including 15 houses with significant historical heritage, have been or are set to be demolished soon.
Around one hundred people gathered on Saturday in front of Piata Matache, the marketplace, in a silent protest against what they called "an abuse against the history of Bucharest". They’ve taken photos and made sketches of the old buildings as a way of preserving the memory of the area.
"Rather than demolish this old part of Bucharest, local authorities should have found proper ways to protect it. Furthermore, the new road – which crosses through the capital's downtown area - will lead to increased vehicle volume and pollution, contrary to the mayor's idea of reducing it,” said Irina Zamfirescu, one of the protesters.
In a related development, the Alliance for a Cleaner Romania, a coalition of civic organisations, has announced it will go to court against the Mayor's Office for starting the demolition of old buildings before acquiring all necessary permits.
For his part, Bucharest Mayor Sorin Oprescu previously said the new road is "extremely necessary" to reduce traffic jams in Bucharest, as the city was not designed to withstand such heavy road usage. Furthermore, the Piata Matache marketplace is to be demolished, but will then be reconstructed very close to its original location.
Many specialists, however, oppose the mayor's current plans. "Whilst most European capitals do the intelligent thing of syphoning traffic from the centre of the city, Bucharest officials do the contrary. It would be better to keep the downtown far less congested instead of building a large road which will lead to an increase in cars coming to the centre,” said architect Claudia Pamfil.
In the two decades since the overthrow of the communist regime, Bucharest has gone through a massive period of urbanisation, which has seen many historical buildings razed to make way for commercial developments. Meanwhile, traffic jams cause public discomfort from downtown areas to the more peripheral residential districts.
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