Romania’s forest’s are being chopped down at the alarming rate of three hectares per hour, according to a study published on Tuesday by the environmental organisation Greenpeace.
“The government has to take urgent measures to protect the forests as the country lost more than 280,000 hectares of forest in the last ten years, including virgin forests”, the group said.
Since the collapse of Romania’s Communist regime back in 1990, many mountains have been almost stripped of vegetation – the desolate scenery bearing witness to the impact that illegal chopping is having on Romania’s natural resources.
The country has around 6.4 million hectares of forest and 120,000 people employed in the forestry sector.
Before 1990, all of Romania’s forests were state-owned. A new law on retrocession was enforced, so at the end of 2010 the state owned only 66.3 per cent of the country’s forests. The ratio has since gone down further to 52.2 per cent.
While the authorities admit illegal logging is a problem, they maintain that they are working hard to curb it and even boast of some successes.
Official statistics claim illegal logging has declined in recent years, and the government registered over 30,000 cases of illegal logging between 2009 and 2011 alone.
Worryingly, although strictly protected by law, Romania’s virgin forests have also been damaged by illegal logging.
Romania still has large unspoilt forests. It is home to about 65 per cent of the virgin forests still remaining in Europe, outside of Russia.
They are mainly situated in the mountainous Carpathian region, but only 20 per cent of these old forests are actually protected by law by being included in national parks.
While the law says all virgin forest should be included in national and nature parks, in reality this is not the case.
Partly this is because much of this forestry is situated in inaccessible valleys or on high mountains slopes which aren’t included in the parks.
Support from outside the country has come from the heir to the British throne, the Prince of Wales, who has warned that Romania could end up with huge barren areas like the Highlands of Scotland or like parts of Canada that were also once covered by forest.
The forests of Romania are the last reserve of some of the rarest mammals in Europe, such as as the brown bear, the lynx and the wolf.