Protected areas in Romania without custodians and protection?
Posted on 07 August 2018
WWF and partners turn to Constitutional Court for response
Bucharest - In late July, the Romanian government issued an emergency ordinance to modify the legal framework of protected areas, removing rangers, biologists, ecologists and foresters from the management of protected areas. Non-Governmental organizations, which currently serve as stewards for many of the country’s protected areas, were also removed from the list. In taking the decision, the Romanian government did not consult experts or current custodians of protected areas, gave no explanation of an alternative arrangement, nor justify the nature of the emergency. WWF warns this decision will weaken conservation efforts and protection for many of Europe’s most outstanding natural values.
“Protected areas are essential for the sustainable development of local communities and society in general. Environmental losses, including losses as a result of climate change, are very visible in Romania and affect us all, irrespective of political opinions, age, income or social category,” says Orieta Hulea, Director of WWF-Romania.
The government cites custodians creating problems in implementing infrastructure projects, but no data has been given to verify this claim. The National Agency for Protected Natural Areas will now replace the "custodian's opinion" without having the capacity to manage protected areas, which will most probably weaken the management and ease the project’s approval processes in biodiversity rich areas.
"We believe that authorities want to make it easier for infrastructure projects that do not meet the requirements of environmental legislation. But if this is the motivation, it is wrong because there are other mechanisms through which infrastructure projects can be implemented with limited or no harm to the environment, e.g. by installing ecological bridges for motorways. Our lives and livelihoods depend on safeguarding the natural environment and the significant benefits that it provides, from clean air and water to climate regulation and recreation -- so we need to find ways for development with nature rather than against it,” Orieta Hulea said.
Prior to taking over the duties and responsibilities of all custodians, the National Agency for Protected Natural Areas should demonstrate that it has the technical and financial capacity to manage all natural protected areas in Romania currently lacking management structures. At present, there are 985 protected areas in Romania, of which less than half are managed. The decision to remove all independent custodians from the administration structures without the required capacity by the government can be interpreted as an irrational act and a direct attack on the democratic values that should be the basis of all political decisions affecting economic, social and environmental sectors.
All relevant Romanian and EU institutions should intervene to stop this discriminatory measure that puts the National Agency for Protected Natural Areas in a clear conflict of interest as an authority that manages, controls and evaluates at the same time.
WWF, together with other Romanian civil society organisations, will officially request the Romanian Ombudsman to submit the matter to the Constitutional Court as the text of this Emergency Ordinance is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and promises to cause great harm to Romania’s natural heritage.