Thousands demonstrated against illegal deforestation

Thousands went to the streets of Bucharest and other big cities in Romania this past Sunday to protest against illegal deforestation and increasing violence toward foresters.

Participants of the Bucharest demonstration – organized by environmental protection organizations Greenpeace Romania, Declic, and Agent Green – held up signs such as “Everybody to the streets to save the forests,” “Enough of the wood mafia,” and “This is our forest and not your cargo.” In front of a ministry building, they demanded the modernization of SUMAL, a system used to monitor deforestation and wood cargo.

“20 million cubic meters of wood disappear from the forests of Romania on a yearly basis, which is more than the 18 million cubic meters that is legally exploited. This is scandalous in a EU member country, in 2020.”

–said managing director of Greenpeace Romania, Valentin Salageanut, to Mediafax news agency.

The environmental protection agency’s leader said that despite the fact that forest guards have been operating in the country since 2015, have launched their “forest radar,” and even have laws to punish drivers who transport illegally cut trees, the Bucharest government does nothing to solve the systemic problems. Because of this, environmental activists have initiated 40 lawsuits against the Romanian state due to the intentional deforestation of protected forests.

Previous violent actions by wood thieves caused a public outcry across the entire country, allowing environmental activists to easily mobilize thousands of protesters on Sunday. These violent acts just recently caused the deaths of six foresters. Two weeks ago, for example, a forester in Máramaros/Maramureș County was shot dead by his own gun after following wood thieves into the forest. The circumstances surrounding the incident are still unclear.

In the middle of September in Moldova, near the village of Pașcani, a forester was pounded to death with an axe. While a few days later nearby in Torda (Kolozs/Cluj County), another forester was beaten up and threatened with death by wood thieves after they got caught in the act. As a reaction to these attacks, at the end of September the foresters’ labor union protested on the streets in Bucharest and marched to the parliament building, carrying five coffins and crosses, each bearing the name of a victim. They demanded the expansion of foresters’ rights and the improvement of their equipment.

According to the labor union, wood thieves have attacked on-duty foresters 90 times from 2017 up until today. In 40 of these cases, the victims even required medical treatment.

Title image: Thousands protesting in Bucharest against illegal deforestation on November 3, 2019. (Photo: Greenpeace Romania Facebook)

Author: Attila Szoó