Posted on 31 May 2013
The Lugoj-Deva highway and the road to new tunnel under Shipka may split ecological corridors
Bucharest, Romania & Sofia, Bulgaria – The construction of two major roads in Bulgaria and Romania must not lead to the destruction of nature, rare and protected species, WWF has warned in a statement. If completed as planned, the Lugoj-Deva highway in Romania could split the last functional ecological corridor between the Western Carpathians and the remote Apuseni Mountains. At the same time, the new road and tunnel at Shipka in the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria could destroy a virgin forest with important bear and wolf habitats.
“The construction of the Lugoj-Deva highway without proper environmental impact assessment will lead to the disappearance of bear populations and seriously affect populations of wolf, lynx and deer in the Apuseni Mountains”, said Cristian-Remus Papp of WWF in Romania.
WWF in Romania is calling on state authorities to act responsibly when planning highways, taking into consideration the importance of preserving vital ecological corridors.
“We need to be interested in the welfare of the species we depend on”, Papp said.
In Bulgaria, WWF is leading an appeal against the environmental impact assessment of the proposed Shipka tunnel under the Balkan Mountains.
“Under the current project, traffic will pass through an important forest, splitting Balgarka Nature Park into two. Only then it will go into a tunnel under the mountain. The affected forest is the watershed for the nearby city of Gabrovo and home to many rare and protected animals and plants. What is more it is part of the Natura 2000 European network of protected areas”, said Katerina Rakovska of WWF in Bulgaria.
An alternative route, supported by WWF and local citizens, would require the construction of a slightly longer tunnel and would not affect the nature park. In addition, it would take all transit traffic out of Gabrovo.
In Lugoj, Romania, WWF has co-organized an international workshop for all interested sides. This is the first time since work on the Deva-Lugoj highway started when all major players have been brought together to be advised by international experts, members of Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE), a partner organization of the European Commission.
“Roads are usually an eternal construction, so their planning and design is essential. A wrong construction due to bad planning means poor quality of life for both humans and species”, said IENE expert Miklos Puky.
Both Romania and Bulgaria are strategically positioned at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, but they also have one of the lowest highway density in the EU. Road development is considered a priority by the authorities and the general public alike. At the same time, fragmentation caused by transport infrastructure is known as a major threat to biodiversity, a serious concern for the European Union.
Next week WWF is taking part in a Carpathian Convention working group, drafting a transport protocol, which will provide guidelines on developing road infrastructure in an environmental way. In Austria, WWF is already working with the national motorway company to provide mitigation measures on the Alpine-Carpathian ecological corridor.