From: Amana Ferro
ENVIRONMENT-ROMANIA: A SMALL VICTORY CALLED ROUTE 66A
by Vesna Peric Zimonjic
BELGRADE (IPS) - The controversy over construction of a major highway in
western Romania that threatens to destroy the precious Retezat and Domogled
natural reserve parks has been put off at least for now.
Authorities have decided to temporarily halt the project after the
environmental aspect of building the much advertised Route 66a came into focus,
with leading experts calling for the plan to be dismantled.
"This is just the first victory in a long battle," Greenpeace coordinator for
Romania, Gabriel Paun, told IPS on phone from Romanian capital Bucharest. "The
break now provides us with a gap for further assessment of the project itself."
Greenpeace had been warning that construction of the road was illegal, and that
hastily drawn up plans to use international funds had bypassed necessary
licences from planning commissions, environmental agencies and the Scientific
Council of the Retezat Park.
Construction of the controversial road has reached a point now only a kilometre
from Retezat forest. The road was meant to connect the towns of Petrosani and
Baile Herculane, long neglected in broader development plans.
Retezat and nearby Domogled in that region are considered among the last
remaining unspoilt forests in Europe. Situated in the west of the country in
the southern Carpathians region, they are home to more than 1,200 plant
species, some 60 of them found only in this area.
They are also home to many animal species long driven out of other areas of
Europe by industrialisation and modern life.
Retezat, proclaimed a nature park back in 1935, is home to chamoises, wolves,
wildcats and lynx. Its 2,500-metre-high peaks are home to rare golden eagles
and other wild birds.
In Domogled, the rare black pine Banat still survives, one of the rarest
species of pines.
But the economic development of Romania, a nation of 22.3 million that is to
join the European Union (EU) Jan. 1, 2007, has led to significant degradation
of the environment.
"The construction of Road 66a was presented to people as a major opportunity
for further economic development," Paun told IPS. "I understand how poor people
are there, but there's no excuse to tell them that this is revitalisation that
will make the areas prosperous tourist centres."
Construction of the road has been much debated in Romanian media. According to
some reports, the decision to build it came after the EU signalled the need for
upgrading major routes.
Romanian President Traian Basescu is reported to have said last summer on a
visit to Petrosani that Road 66a "should be built, and that is it." This
boosted his popularity in the former mining centre that has economically
collapsed since the fall of communism in 1989.
Much of the environment was found to have collapsed earlier. Immediately after
the end of communism, it became clear that there had been almost no
Some 20 percent of Romanian rivers were dead by 1989. The air, and also the
soil and underground waters were polluted with toxic chemicals from factories,
mining and chemical fertilisers.
The moves to join the EU brought growing interest in the environment. Romania
now has the fastest growing environmental activities in the Balkans.
Reports by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Wildlife
Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace say Romanian environmental legislation now complies
with more than 90 percent of EU regulations.
"People are now definitely ecologically smarter," Paun said. "This helps us to
do everything we can to prevent destruction of the remaining intact
"Let me know, that at least, she will try
Then she'll be a true love of mine"
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Sageata Albastra e cea mai mare tzeapa a transportului public!
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