Controversial move: Govt. appoints state agency to manage protected natural areas in Romania

The Romanian government adopted on July 19 an emergency ordinance that removes the notion of “custodian” of protected natural area, passing these areas’ management under the authority of the National Agency for Protected Areas (ANANP).

The custodians of protected areas in Romania are mainly NGOs, but also city halls, county councils, universities and companies, which manage these areas with their own sources.

Several NGOs and environment activists have criticized the government’s decision, saying that the change was done rapidly, without consultation. They also say there may be hidden interests behind this decision, as the custodians have been blocking several controversial projects in protected areas, such as hotels, mining, roads or other real estate projects, as any intervention in these areas required their approval.

The NGOs also pointed out to the fact that ANANP doesn’t have the capacity to manage the protected areas. The agency has only 90 employees, according to local Hotnews.ro.

One of the NGOs that have reacted to the government’s decision is the Administration of the Vacaresti Natural Park, a protected area in Bucharest also known as Bucharest’s Delta.

“The Romanian state has done nothing to manage the protected natural areas so far. It chose to outsource administration to custodians and administrators, including NGOs, who, with their own resources, did what the state was supposed to do. After almost 20 years in which the state did nothing, now, suddenly, through an emergency ordinance adopted without any consultation and debate, the notion of custodian is eliminated, which means that all custodians are eliminated, along with everything they did and still do, the responsibility being taken over by the National Agency for Natural Protected Areas (ANANP),” said Florin Stoican, president of the Administration of Vacaresti Natural Park and founding member of the park.

“Moreover, the NGOs are no longer entitled to get involved in the management of protected natural areas,” he added.

Stoican also said that almost 60% of Romania’s protected natural areas have no management at the moment, and yet the government decided to remove those who have so far assumed the responsibility to do so.

“It is normal for the state through ANANP to assume responsibility for the management of protected natural areas, but the direct takeover of the management must be a long-term strategic objective,” he added.

ANANP was the idea of the 2016 technocrat government, and the institution was especially created to manage protected natural areas. The NGOs wanted such a structure to exist, but they also wanted to be part of the system, to be custodians under the guidance of ANANP, according to Ovidiu Bufnila, responsible for communication at the Romanian Ornithological Society.

“Excluding NGOs with work experience in conservation was … a surprise for us. We don’t know yet the entire text of the ordinance, but we want to go, alongside other custodians and authorities, to discuss about the future Government Decision that will implement this ordinance. We want to participate in this process of setting up the new structures that will manage the nature of Romania,” he told local Hotnews.ro.

In Romania, the protected natural areas are not managed directly by the Romanian state. There is one exception, however – the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. The rest, namely national parks, natural parks, nature reserves and Natura 2000 sites, are managed by custodians/managers, based on 10-year management plans.

Romanian Govt. changes rules for environment authorizations

Irina Marica, irina.marica@romania-insider.com