Romsilva rejects allegations of "disastrous" cuts in forests around Bucharest but drone images show different version
Romania's National Forest Administration, or Romsilva, recently rejected accusations levied against it by local environmental activist Daniel Sărdan regarding the "disaster" in the forests managed by the Ilfov Forestry Directorate. Ilfov is the county that surrounds Bucharest.
This past weekend, Sărdan released images of trees, including centuries-old oaks, in the Snagov area that had been cut. He said that, deep into the Snagov forest, he found entire roads with felled trees and centuries-old oaks cut for firewood.
"This is what a forest classified for social and protective purposes, preserved for Bucharest and its surroundings, looks like/looked like. This is how municipalities and people protect the surrounding nature. This is why access to the forest is prohibited, and trail markings are erased. I hope we manage to pass the law to protect the forests in Ilfov because soon, [otherwise] only shrubs will remain. Probably, that's why they're cutting desperately, and hopefully, that's not the reason for some delays," Sărdan wrote.
In reply, Romsilva representatives said: "The trees presented in the December 2 post were legally exploited according to the Snagov Forestry Division's forest management plan, and the works have all the necessary legal authorizations." The institution also noted that the areas in question are not in protected natural areas, as claimed.
Romsilva mentioned that the volumes cut represent about 0.01% of the total wood mass in the forests managed by the Ilfov Forestry Directorate. "In total, this year, the Ilfov Forestry Directorate will exploit approximately 65,000 cubic meters of wood from the approximately 23,000 hectares of managed forest land, state-owned and private forests. This represents an average of 2.8 cubic meters per hectare and about 1% of the total wood volume in the forests managed by the Ilfov Forestry Directorate," Romsilva said, also highlighting the reforestation program it is currently running.
"All the forest land where forestry works were carried out has been naturally or artificially regenerated, ensuring the continuity of the forests. [...] Also, the accusation of a supposed ban on public access to the forests managed by the Ilfov Forestry Directorate is equally false," the state institution further stated.
In a later response to the public dispute with Romsilva, Daniel Sărdan released drone footage of how the forests in Ilfov look like, with widespread deforested areas.
"Don't believe me, just watch this video. I don't like what I see. The forests in the images are categorized by them [Romsilva] as protected [...]. From the images, they don't seem that way. In their statement, they put 'activist' in quotes to discredit efforts to protect the forest, but I am, in fact, an environmental engineering specialist. Not that civic activism is pejorative, it's just an attempt to denigrate civic activity to prevent citizens from taking a stand," Daniel Sărdan, who is also a supporter of the Together for the Green Belt civic platform, said.
"Forest protection, the implementation of the Green Belt to protect Bucharest and Ilfov, the planting of green corridors connecting the remaining bodies of the Vlasiei Forests, explaining the role of the forest to those who visit it, stopping its exaggerated or illegal exploitation should be done by Romsilva. So, I invite Romsilva Ilfov to a bit of openness and to join the efforts for the Green Belt, not to exploit the forest in the most crowded urban structure," Sărdan added.
Alex Găvan, high-altitude climber and founder of the civic platform Together for the Green Belt, initiator of the law that would create the Green Belt Bucharest-Ilfov, also shared the drone images on social media, showing entire deforested areas or areas sparsely covered by trees in Ilfov County.
"The devastating drone footage reveals the state of the forests in Ilfov. For those who still harbor illusions: these are the forests in Ilfov, and this is how they are managed. Most of these county forests are categorized as 'forests with protective, predominantly social functions.' As the images speak for themselves, I invite viewers to assess how well they fulfil these roles," Găvan said, commenting on the aerial video.
The Together for the Green Belt civic platform was launched in the spring and joined by more than 150 non-profits, civic groups, and public figures. One of its main pillars is a bill amending the Forest Code so as to put the entire forest vegetation of Ilfov County under protection. The legislation passed the Senate in the summer with a unanimous vote and is currently being debated in committees of the Chamber of Deputies.
As part of the same initiative, an online 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.
"The platform reiterates the invitation to be #TogetherForGreenBelt for Marcel Ciolacu, the president of the Social Democratic Party, as this political party is still the only one not to have signed the Memorandum for Clean Air, Health, and Future. The seven-point document, along with the legislative project, contains solutions to address pollution in Bucharest, Ilfov, and other cities in the country," Alex Găvan said.
(Opening photo and drone video source: Centuraverde.ro)