Illegal logging in Romanian forests up by 32% last year, Greenpeace report says

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12,487 cases of illegal logging were identified nationwide in 2017, i.e. an average of 34 cases/day, representing a 32% increase compared to the previous year, shows the „Illegal logging in Romanian forest” 2017 report by Greenpeace.

An analysis of the data reveals a significant increase in the number of criminal offences and a moderate decrease in the number of civil penalties recorded in 2017 as compared to 2016. The explanation lies both in the higher number of illegal harvesting cases and in the greater seriousness of the infringements.

According to the Greenpeace study concerning the evolution of Romania’s forest-covered areas from 2000 to 2011, approximately 360,000 hectares become deforested or degraded during that period. A 2015 update of the map showed that the pace of forest degradation had remained unchanged.

This study follows-up on the monitoring work that Greenpeace Romania started in 2009 by publishing reports on illegal logging. It compiles and builds on official data with respect to cases of illegal logging discovered and investigated by the authorities. It is worth mentioning that the National Forest Inventory shows that the annual volume of illegal logging reached 8.8 million m3 between 2008 and 2014.

Most cases of illegal logging were recorded in the following counties (similarly to the year before): Mureș – 1,511 cases (12%), Brașov – 762 cases (6%) and Olt – 730 cases (6%). The fewest were recorded in the counties of Ialomița and Ilfov (22 cases each), as well as in Brăila (14 cases).

Regarding the seriousness of the infringements, a total of 8,461 criminal offences were recorded in 2017 – 62.02% more than in 2016, when the number had fallen by 47% compared to the previous year. Most criminal offences occurred in the following counties: Argeș (458 offences), Mureș (449), and Maramureș (420); together, these three counties accounted for 15.68% of such criminal offences identified nationwide.

19,824 civil penalties were imposed in 2017, falling by 10.97 % from the previous year. Most of them were recorded in the counties of Vrancea (1,693), Mureș (1,647), and Argeș (1,545). The three counties accounted for 24.64 % of all civil penalties imposed at national level.

The sanctions applied nationwide amounted to RON 42,289,200, a figure 27.99 % higher than the year before. The greatest sanctions were recorded in the counties of Mureș (3,282,800 lei), Olt (3,185,800 lei), and Argeș (2,658,500 lei). Together, these three counties accounted for 21.58 % of the total sanctions applied at national level.

Pursuant to the applicable law, 1,465 vehicles used for the transport of illegally-sourced wood were seized in 2017 – an increase of 27.83% as compared to the previous year. 1,183 of them (i.e. 80.75%) were seized by Police officers, and 282 (19.25%) were seized by the Gendarmerie. Most transport vehicles were seized in the counties of Argeș (13%), Vrancea (11%), and Mureș (7%).

The volume of wood illegally harvested throughout 2017 amounted to 178,669.41 m3, an increase of 26.74% as compared to the previous year. Over one half of this quantity, namely 53.97%, originated from the counties of Cluj, Maramureș and Sibiu.

The total damages incurred at national level in 2017 due to illegal logging added up to 41,546,406.87 lei, which is 5.25% higher than the previous year. The average damages/case amounted to 3,327 lei. The greatest damages were recorded in the county of Maramureș, just like the year before – 14,270,960.86 lei, i.e. 34.35% of the overall national figure. Maramureș also had the highest average damages/case, namely 35,063 lei – about 10 times higher than the average value per case at national level.

As far as the prosecution of forest offences is concerned, 20,835 cases were investigated in 2017 – 15.07% more than in 2016. Out of them, 5,467 cases were closed, i.e. 26.24%. Out of the total cases closed last year at national level, 605 had led to indictment – i.e. 11.07%, a slight increase from the previous year.

The highest number of cases pending before the courts in 2017 was recorded in Maramureș (1,367), Argeș (1,295), and Gorj (1,100), the same counties as in 2016.

In 2017, the following counties had the highest number of closed cases: Maramureș (341), Bacău (320), and Argeș (299). These three counties account for 17.56% of the total number of cases closed at national level last year.

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