Europe, Romania

Deforestation in Romania

For many people, the small country of Romania represents nature. Many important figures visit Romania for the sole purpose of seeing and becoming involved in a lifestyle that was said to be extinct for hundreds of years.

I remember seeing a news article a few weeks ago about an English lady who was amazed of the fact that people still use scythes in order to cut the grass and make hay for the farm animals. Scythes, in 2015! She said that in the United Kingdom, nobody used scythes anymore after the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution. Can you imagine it?

It is true that nature is one of the most important assets of my country. I have lived in a picturesque little town in the Carpathian Mountains my whole life and I cannot imagine living in a big concrete city. However, even I noticed the danger lurking behind the modernization of Romania.

The cars driving by in the middle of the night, headlights out. The horses neighing because the load is too heavy for them to drag. The people speaking in hush-hush voices, hoping nobody will see them. And most of all, the empty green places where once stood trees hundreds of years old.

I’m talking about the massive deforestation process taking place in Romania.

What It Is

Deforestation means cutting down trees on a massive scale. This has happened throughout Romania and now, years after it all started, we can see the damage that’s already been done. Everywhere you look, there are empty patches of land with hundreds of tree stubs coming out of the earth.

According to the statistics, at least 600 hectares of forest have been cut down illegally from 1990 up until 2013. Officially, things don’t look that bad, because people calculate the amount of land occupied by a forest as being the actual forest, when in truth, half or more of the terrain that in papers appears as being forest is filled with tree stubs and empty lands.

Why Do Things Go Unnoticed?

You would think that if chunks of forests would disappear overnight, people would notice, but they don’t. The truth is, most of the forests are private property, handed over to individuals after the fall of the communist regime back in 1989. Back then, desperate to give back the things the communists took away from the people, the new regime gave back everything, including land. This is what happened to the forests too. They were divided and given to the people, mostly opportunists, who either don’t care about them and allow people to go in and cut down trees, or they allow people to do so in exchange for money.

Why Do People Do It?

You are probably wondering, why do people do this kind of stuff, despite the fact that there is a law expressly stating that it’s illegal, and despite all the environmental damage deforestation does? The reasons are not that simple, but usually, they fit in one of the three categories presented below.

There are two kinds of people that cut down the trees illegally and they should not be treated as the same, because they are different.

First of all, we have the rich, opportunistic, not-giving-a-crap-about-the-law type of people. They can be easily identified: they are the ones that own the forests and they drive around fancy cars and they don’t fear the law because they are usually best friends with the mayor or they are involved in politics themselves. Corruption is like a tradition in Romania, I can’t picture my country without it. Some of these people prefer to let people cut down trees from their own forests in exchange for money. Others prefer to come at night and steal trees. You would not believe the kind of stuff they do at night here, in the forests.

Secondly, this is the category where the poor people, who are trying to provide for their families fit in. Because the winters are harsh in Romania, people need wood to stay warm and since most of them have old fashioned stoves, if they don’t get wood, they can’t get through the winter.

Who Is to Blame?

In the last few years, deforestation has become a huge issue in Romania. Between the years of 2000 and 2011, the deforestation process has accelerated, particularly due to three major foreign companies that entered the country. While people did cut trees before they showed up, it wasn’t on such an alarming scale. Nowadays, it feels like entire hectares of forest disappear overnight.

In my opinion, it’s not the foreign companies who want to extend their tentacles in Romania too that caused this. It’s not even the people’s fault. It’s the times’ fault. Times are changing and the modern world is coming to Romania. The centuries old nature cohabit Romania with the modern industrialized world that’s about to set foot here too.

While some people talk about not seeing elephants in a hundred years because of pollution, we think about our nature. In a hundred years, will the forest surrounding my village still exist? Or will it be gone, replaced by a concrete or worse, an empty place filled with stubs of trees?

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