By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The American Chamber of Commerce in Romania (AmCham) has criticized draft amendments to the Forestry Code recently approved by the Senate and now submitted for the final vote to the Chamber of Deputies, warning, among others, against exposing population to more flooding risks and an overall worse situation concerning forests which have been victims of uncontrolled deforestation over the past 24 years.
In a press release, AmCham says that, since the long-term safety of the national forest area represents not only an important pillar for economic growth but also a strategic element for maintaining the climatic and biodiversity balance, it has followed with a keen interest the competent authorities’ approach in dealing with this topic, as well as the new developments in the legislative framework in this field.
”Unfortunately, the new draft law for amending and completing Law 46/2008 – Forestry Code, adopted by the Senate of Romania during its session on 17 September 2014 and submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, the decision-making forum, following an emergency procedure. The amendments proposed under this draft law are far from solving the dramatic problem posed by the ongoing illegal deforestations and retrocessions, as presented by the Romanian Court of Accounts in 2013 in its audit report on “State of the national forest area in Romania between 1990 and 2012”, AmCham further says.
It went on to highlight the amendments AmCham says are worrisome. “On behalf of the business community, we wish to express our deep concern over certain provisions of the draft law that do not appear to impose measures intended to ensure a real and sustainable safety of the national forest area, such as: exclusion from the national forest area of protective forest belts and of wooded pastures with a denseness higher than or equal to 0.4; possibility to erect constructions at a 50m distance from the forest margin; diminution of the area to be afforested by 2035 from 2 million hectares, an obligation assumed by the Romanian state, to a surface of 1 million hectare by 2030”, the chamber added.
AmCham recommends the Chamber of Deputies to make a thorough analysis of the draft law adopted by the Senate and of the disastrous medium and long-term effects which the proposed amendments can have on the national forest area, on the national economy and on the ecologic balance – on the future of this country and of our children.
It also requests the Government to adopt firm and urgent measures to solve the aggravated problems raised by illegal deforestation and abusive forest retrocession, such as a minimum 6-month moratorium to suspend forest concessions and exploitation permits, strengthening of controls made by competent authorities in the forestry sector and imposition of urgent sanctions, urgent and extended real-time implementation of a monitoring system for wood transportation in all the counties and stocktaking of the areas affected by massive logging and development of a national afforestation plan.
If not reversed, these amendments will have serious effects. “Given the frequent floods and landslides of the last years that had catastrophic effects on certain regions of the country, the role played of the national forest area has become vital for communities, whereas the changes proposed under the new Forestry Code – especially the diminution of the land surface to be afforested by the Romanian State – do nothing but aggravate the situation and pose a risk to the safety of the population from the areas prone to such disasters”, AmCham concluded.