By Douglas Williams

For a city like Bucharest to have such a quality resource as Baneasa forest on its doorstep is a real blessing. Baneasa forest is huge, criss crossed by myriad trails and it’s amazingly easy to get hopelessly lost in. It’s one of the first things I did in Bucharest and I’ve done it again since – great fun, highly recommended… Many, many people enjoy the forest throughout the year: joggers, dog walkers, cyclists, lovers, walkers, kids, the whole gamut of society use the forest all day, every day. Some weekends, especially with the first flush of spring, around the main entrance point near the zoo, it’s double and triple parked and literally hundreds of people are strolling, enjoying the burgeoning, verdant fecundity. And yet right now it is being chopped down by opportunists, mostly, it would seem, to make a few lei from firewood. 

Given the rate at which much of the rest of Romania’s forests are being logged, largely illegally, it’s enough to bring on a sense of deep, existential despair – that’s what it did for me anyway when I first encountered this crime against us all. But then I learned something that has restored my faith and brought hope – the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Costel Alexe has given Baneasa, along with Snagov and Andronache forests, protected status from March so that these logging practices will then be illegal. Ok, it takes affect in March and hopefully there won’t have been too much logging meantime but the important thing is – it’s a start and it’s a move in the right direction and it shows the government is listening and acting so credit where it’s due. Let’s hope it’s a sign of a more proactive approach to these issues from the new government and let’s encourage them to do more. 

Illegal logging is a huge problem here in Romania and it’s a crime that’s taking place in plain sight – myopic though it clearly is. Chainsaws are famously noisy, the logs produced are huge, the trucks needed to move the timber are enormous and they must travel on public roads. Try hiding a timber mill, you can’t! Travel around Romania and in a pretty short time you’ll see all of these elements – some, of course, are perfectly legitimate but one must assume, given the sheer volume of timber that is being illegally logged, quite a lot of it isn’t. I cannot believe that it’s beyond the capabilities of Romanian law-enforcement to enact existing laws. If there are resourcing issues, and I understand there are, then I’m sure a strong case could be put to the EU for help. 

This is a national emergency.

If current levels of logging continue then the great Romanian forests – along with the abundance of creatures they support – will have entirely vanished before this decade’s out. For the new government this is low-hanging fruit requiring little more than will and some re-allocation of resources and the results will be readily measurable and rightly celebrated by a grateful electorate. Ignoring is not an option. 

We must fervently hope that the newly appointed Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Costel Alexe, can act as decisively with regards all the nation’s forests – from those up by the Ukrainian border all the way to those by the Serbian border – as he has done with the capital’s Baneasa.

O zi buna              

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