Monday, September 17, 2007

Natura 2000 in Romania

The Sofia Echo

Bulgaria and Romania, the two newest European Union (EU) members, had to submit a list of proposed zones to include in the European environmental network Natura 2000 by January 1 2007. Bulgaria was late with the list for submission and Romania, it turned out, was late too.

The communication co-ordinator of WWF Danube-Carpatian Programme for Romania, Dana Caratas, told The Sofia Echo that her country had sent the Natura 2000 list to the European Commission in June 2007. An answer from the EU was still pending, she said. Caratas said there was “very poor information in Romania about Natura 2000, especially among local authorities and ordinary people living in potential sites”.

The level of information, according to her, ranged from not knowing anything about the European environmental network to “knowing ‘something’, usually the wrong things, for example ‘we will not be able to raise animals any more’, ‘our animals will die, because grazing will be forbidden on our lands, due to some stupid rabbits, which need to be protected’, etc.”. Caratas said this lack of information, or misinformation, was one of the biggest challenges and obstacles that Nature 2000 implementation faced in Romania in the near future.

She said that, according to her, there were some economic reasons involved because at Natura 2000 sites only certain economic activities and projects were allowed. “I think that about 12 per cent of the whole of Romania was proposed as Nature 2000 sites,” she said. In her opinion, developments in tourism and road construction have tended not to take this into consideration and “projects will be developed”. Caratas gave an example, one highway that was planned in Romania was threatening some proposed Nature 2000 sites. “Although discussions were held in respect to this, I really doubt that the construction plans will be changed in order to avoid the sites - this will take lots of time and money,” she said.

As a further example Caratas cited the increased pressure for the development of tourism in Romania. “There is an almost hysterical attitude in Romania, regarding how great tourism is in Bulgaria is and how bad it is in Romania,” she said. Recently, the Romanian parliament passed a new law ‘Ski in Romania’, which allowed the constructions of more than 40 resorts in Romanian Carpathians. Caratas said most of these resorts would be in National or Natural Parks, which were already protected areas according to Romanian legislation, and were also proposed Natura 2000 sites.

As things have happened late in Bulgaria’s northern neighbour and because of the information gap, there has been no major controversy in Romania regarding Natura 2000 – yet. “However, after the EU has approved the lists and things will have to be put into practice, I expect reactions from the people. And because of economic interests and investors’ skills in manipulating ordinary people and also politicians’ support, I think nature may lose. There are already projects in protected areas, which are damaging nature,” Caratas said.

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