Romanian minister promises to get tough with timber crime after trees cut down in central Bucharest park

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Romania’s environment minister has vowed to get tough with illegal logging, after images were published of trees that had been felled in a central Bucharest park, apparently without the required permits.

“We can’t tolerate this kind of attitude and practices,” said the minister, Costel Alexe. “Environmental issues can’t be treated with half measures,” he said.

In recent months, illegal deforestation has become a hot topic in Romania. There was public outrage after two forest rangers were killed last fall, one in “a Mafia style” slaying.

The deaths came amid a rise in attacks on rangers and an increase in illegal logging in the country’s forested areas. Alexe said that almost 20 million cubic meters, which is almost half of the wood cut down annually in Romania, is illegally logged.

This week, the European Commission this week gave Romania one month to implement regulations to prevent timber companies from selling illegally chopped wood and timber products on the EU market.

Alexe said he’d seen images of trees that had been illegally cut down in the Michael I Park (formerly known as Herestrau Park) in the heart of Bucharest.

“They started chopping without having the permission from the Environment Protection Agency without the permission from the Forestry Directorate,” he told Digi24.

“The Forestry Guard will do a check and those who are guilty will pay,” he said. That could be a fine or they could face criminal proceedings.

The minister’s comments came after environment non-governmental organization Eco-Civica  posted pictures of trees that had been felled in the park which is historic site and enjoys certain protections.

The group said that public officials were in the process of cutting down 300 trees and pruning or cutting back a further 350. It said the group had been unable to speak with people in charge of the peration.

“As the park if a historical monument, the culture ministry needs to give the approval” for trees to be cut down, the group said, calling the operation “a real massacre.”

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