Article by Ion Holban
|New Environmentalist has joined Agent Green and several other conservation groups in their campaign to stop the building of national road 66A through an area of international wildlife importance: the Retezat-Godeanu-Tarcu mountain range, western Romania|
Greenpeace calls this “the last remaining intact forest landscape in Europe south of the Arctic circle.”
We live in a time where in order to experience large intact wildlife habits you would normally have to travel to remote places outside Europe and it is therefore hard to believe there is still a place on the continent where largely unaffected primary forests and wildlife still persists.
A study by the Romanian Ministry of Environment publicised in June 2007 describes Retezat-Godeanu-Tarcu as “the last intact forest landscape in temperate Europe,” spreading over 97,926 hectares. The area includes 18,046 hectares of untouched forests and 22 types of ecosystems, but almost 10,000 hectares are not yet protected under national legislation. And it is the shear size of the area that makes it big enough to support a wide variety of large mammals and a rich biodiversity.
|FOTO: Ramon JURJ/ICAS||Deep inside an ancient forest a pack of wild wolves hunt for deer while a brown bear rests in a clearing. In the same forest they roam alongside wild boar, lynx, wildcat, chamois roe and red deer, as well as small carnivore species such as badger and otter. These pictures are not from remote places in Canada, Alaska or Russia. They are from Eastern Europe, in the Carpathian mountains of western Romania.|
Disappointingly however the local and central authorities of Romania have been slow to recognise the international importance of the area and have chosen instead to construct a national road through the middle of this region in the hope of attracting large scale tourism to the area. The dispute started when local and central authorities decided to build a national road that is scheduled to cut straight through the area for almost 100 km. Work on the road started in 1999, but was repeatedly halted due to the lack of proper work permits and an ongoing dispute with environmentalists. Construction started again in spring of 2006 with over 17 km already completed and with only a few passages for wildlife that are not the result of a scientific study.
|FOTO: Ramon JURJ/ICAS||The chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra, is a species native to the Carpathian Mountains of Romania and are strictly protected animals under the European Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC|
Agent Green, the main organisers behind the current protest, is appealing to the Minister for the Environment to re-consider developing the road due to the potential devastating effect it could have on local wildlife. They are especially concerned that the road will be build and surrounded with concrete wall up to 4 metres tall, making them an impassable barrier. There is further concern that the road will be used by large vehicles to industrially exploit the forests and by numerous weekend tourists driving through the area, increasing pollution and disturbance in the area. Agent Green also points out that there are alternative roads that go around the main protected area and can be better developed without the need to build in the reserve.
The Romanian branch of WWF’s is also concerned of more severe long term negative impacts of the road such as “increased traffic bringing large-scale tourism, rather than the eco-tourism and sustainable development that are most desirable for such a region.”
Greenpeace Romania also protested on numerous occasions against the delays in creating a long promised national agency for protected areas (ANAP). The delay to them is “a catastrophe”, as the creation of ANAP is crucial to the conservation of protected areas in Romania. “Forests have already been mutilated all over the country with the consent of decision-makers and public workers from the Ministry of Agriculture,” said Gabriel Paun, a former representative for Greenpeace and the current president of Agent Green.
On the other hand the local authorities, such as the Danut Buhaescu, the mayor of Uricani, a town of 10,000 people, see the road as meant to help develop tourism in the area, and the only chance his town has.
|The current president of Romania, Traian Basescu was a Transport minister and he is also a main supporter of the road, calling the road’s critics “political adversaries” who want to sabotage the project. During a 2007 visit to the area, the president said that stopping the works represented “the definitive shutting down of the Jiu Valley” and “a mockery of public funds.” In his opinion he is the decision maker for Route 66A: “It’s a road that I care about very much. That’s it!”|
But there is still controversy as local environmental groups insist that the works were not even authorized before work began in 1999 and despite the possible economic benefits, environmentalists worry that the road could destroy precisely what it is supposed to promote: the beautiful nature of the region, by disturbing ecosystems and interrupting the routes of protected animals.
To overcome a very poor environmental risk assessment, Agent Green has started a biodiversity counter-study for the next section of the road to be built. Professors from University of Edinburgh and University Babes Bolyai Cluj joined the study to proof the real value of Europe’s Last Intact Forest Landscape. They’ve already identified 109 wildlife corridors for large mammals, 26 species of bats, 34 spots where 4 species of reptiles and 6 species of amphibians are mating and the nest of a pair of the very rare golden eagle. It is expected that the study will be finalised after 3 years.
However, a decision of the Government regarding the construction of the road section that will compromise the Intact Forest Lndscape is expected this summer and the environmentalists are extremely worried about the upcoming decision.
The New Environmentalist Society believes that the negatives effects will take longer to show but can be potentially irreversible once the park is fragmented and large scale tourism moves in. We aim to actively support local projects to develop the area for eco-tourism, in a suitable matter but we are against large scale developments within the protected area and its buffer zones including national roads.
You can get involved by contacting us or by signing the online petition at:
Alternatively, If you would like to participate directly in the resistance camp organised by Agent Green and other agencies starting on the 22nd July 2010 where asphalt meets nature, please let us know and we can advise you with travel arrangements. The New Environmentalist Society is currently planning to send a small team of volunteers to participate in the protest camp so please contact us if you want to join our team.
All the volunteers willing to travel and take part in the protest will have the opportunity to also enjoy wildlife with guidance from Agent Green and the national park rangers.
Agent Green’s video of the DN 66A being build:
Pictures reproduced with Agent Green’s apporoval for this campaign only.
Agent Green’s website and campaign: www.agentgreen.ro
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