The Jiu Valley, Romania’s former largest coal mining area, is now defined by wonderful landscapes, an exceptional river basin, and ancient history and culture.
Jiu Valley is an academic center with a technical profile which now passes from a mono-industrial, polluting area to restaurants rebranding itself as a sustainable local economy’s oriented towards a circular character and the most Romanian urban area surrounded by tourist resorts located within a natural city environment.
With a population of around 135.000 inhabitants and comprising six towns and several villages, the Jiu Valley is surrounded by mountains and offers its inhabitants and visitors clean fresh air, a variety of local traditions, and a wide diversity of amenities. Life in the area dates back to ancient times, with a rural community that maintains its traditions and ancestral customs. The modern age came packed with 19th century industrialization based mainly on coal extraction, followed by rapid deindustrialization in the past several decades. The post-coal period brought tragedy, depopulation and economic collapse. Tens of thousands left the valley with little hope of returning.
Nevertheless, year by year the Jiu Valley is being revived. Several civic initiatives manage to rebuild the wonders of the Jiu Valley and to scatter the fog that was cast upon it after the closure of the mines.
One of the newest initiatives is “Invest in Jiu Valley”, a project that aims to contribute to the economic development of the Valley and which promotes local opportunities for investment in the area. Jiu Valley is a region in transition, in a process that will decide its future. It aims to become a resilient destination in the Romanian economic landscape, capitalising on strengths and socio-economic trends. The idea of this project came following the participation of the Jiu Valley at Cities of Tomorrow 2018, an event organized by AHK Romania. Jiu Valley participated in Romania’s stand at ExpoReal 2018, the largest European investment fair and was part of all the events organized for the Romanian delegation, establishing contacts with representatives of the business environment and understanding the level of performance in presenting their own advantages and effective communication strategies in the investment environment. The initiative is implemented by the six mayors in Jiu Valley conurbation, and supported by several citizens and NGOs that have helped with data collection, recordings, materials, and promotion channels. Through “Invest in Jiu Valley,” the establishment of a partnership between the six localities (Aninoasa, Lupeni, Petrila, Petrosani, Uricani, Vulcan) also required the establishment of bold objectives, such as setting up a service to facilitate dialogue between the local administration and foreign investors, digital platforms connected to a database to promote investment opportunities in the Jiu Valley and continuous participation in events to promote local potential.
“Save the Jiu River” is another initiative, which reveals the ecological side of the citizens. Last year a coalition of local and national NGOs managed to stop an illegal hydroelectric power plant construction that used to threaten the superior course of the Jiu Valley on “Defileul Jiului National Park” area. The locals try now to promote different activities that capitalize on the touristic potential of the river, as rafting, photo contests, and other outdoor activities along the river.
Going on with the surrounding mountains potential, the New Horizons Foundation in Lupeni implements a project that plans over 500km of MTB trails throughout the area, the largest project of this type in Europe. The potential of this type of activity is confirmed by organizing this summer, between 24-25th of August, the National Enduro Championship in Straja. Another mountain destination, Vâlcan Pass, will host the IDF World Cup 2019 between 26-28th of July. The route is chosen because the downhill riders consider it as being one of the gnarliest and scariest tracks. Other spectacular competitions organized in the mountains are Oslea Night Ridge and Oslea Hiride.
The mining buildings left behind after the closure of the mines represent a collective memory for the Jiu Valley community. Planeta Petrila capitalizes on this and promotes the regeneration of industrial assemblies in new large urban centers, with administrative, economic or cultural-tourist destination. The project aims to extend and regenerate the entire industrial property axis in the Eastern Jiu Valley. The initiative is materialized to date by the declared transformation of Petrila Coal Mine in a cultural mine, introducing artistic events in industrial buildings with outstanding spatial characteristics. One of the historical buildings is now in the design phase to become a regional robotics hub for local highschool teams Wafy and AlphaBit and will host the Robotics Valley Festival in the second part of August. Another building will turn into a visitor center with a fascinating panoramic view of the entire area. In this setting, the theatre and musical Bad Man Festival will be held between 23-25th of August, continuing the series of alternative cultural events held in his home courtyard by the caricaturist Ion Barbu, in the early 2000s.
The Jiu Valley citizens are willing to put the shoulder to the reshaping of the area, transforming it into an attractive place to live, work and visit. They are looking forward to welcoming everybody in their houses and they need everybody’s support into succeeding in this mission.