Bill seeking to protect forests around Bucharest, one step away from final vote in Parliament
The draft law amending the Forest Code so as to put the entire forest vegetation of Ilfov county under protection is officially one step away from the final vote in Parliament. Ilfov is the county surrounding Bucharest, and if passed, the legislative initiative would be the starting point for creating a green belt around the capital city.
Introduced on April 12 as part of the civic platform Together for the Green Belt/Împreună pentru Centura Verde, the bill reached the Chamber of Deputies this fall after being unanimously passed by the Senate in the summer.
On Wednesday, November 14, all members of the Chamber of Deputies’ environment committee voted in favour of the legislation, moving the initiative one step closer to the last stage in its legislative process in the Parliament. Next, the draft law only needs the agriculture and forestry committee's report before moving forward to the final and decisive debate and vote in the Chamber.
Once it passes the Parliament, the bill also needs to be signed into law by president Klaus Iohannis.
The legislation is one of the main pillars of the Together for the Green Belt civic platform - a call for action focused on solutions to make the Romanian capital a healthier city that brings together more than 150 non-profits, civic groups and public figures. An online public petition with the same goal has gathered more than 11,000 signatures so far, while a memorandum of understanding has been backed by several high-ranking political and executive decision-makers. Among them Bucharest mayor Nicuşor Dan, Ilfov county president Hubert Thuma, and Senate president Nicolae Ciucă.
In fact, representatives of the civic platform say that the Social Democratic Party (PSD) is the only party that still didn’t sign the memorandum. Thus, as several of the document’s points of action can be met only with support from executive decision-makers, the platform and its supporters invite prime minister Marcel Ciolacu and acting Chamber of Deputies speaker Alfred Simonis to join in and sign the document, as their contribution is highly important in this quest to create a green belt around Bucharest.
“The Bucharest-Ilfov Green Belt represents a project that if we fail to treat with maximum priority and seriousness now, the future will impose it on us anyway, at a much heavier health, economic, ecological and ethical cost,” said Alex Găvan, high altitude climber and founder of the Together for the Green Belt civic platform.
Further details about the civic initiative, a project of the Alex Găvan Foundation co-initiated by high altitude climber and conservationist Alex Găvan and Florin Stoican - president of the Kogayon and Văcărești Natural Park associations, can be found here (in Romanian).
Bucharest is in the top 3 of the most polluted capitals in the European Union. And air pollution not only means health issues for its inhabitants but also translates into an annual cost of EUR 6.35 billion.
Plus, the Romanian capital is last in the EU when it comes to green space per capita. With approximately 7-9 square meters, the city is far from the 26 square meters it should have, according to the law. At the same time, the forests around Bucharest are systematically decimated, the project initiators say.
A 2020 report by the National Institute of Public Health found that if the authorities were to meet their already assumed targets to combat pollution, the life expectancy of Bucharest residents would increase by four years.
Alex Găvan also made the case for the creation of the Bucharest-Ilfov Green Belt at the 2023 Climate Change Summit in Bucharest. A video of his speech below:
(Photo source: courtesy of Alex Găvan)