NGOs urge protection for Văcărești Natural Park in an open letter to environment authorities

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Almost 30 NGOs on environment protection have sent a letter to Costel Alexe, Minister of the Environment, Waters and Forests and to Adi Croitoru, President of the National Agency for Natural Protected Areas, asking them to ensure the protection of Văcărești Natural Park in Bucharest, arguing that the park in serious danger, as it has no management plan and that the visiting infrastructure is degrading.

Văcărești Natural Park in Bucharest is the only natural park located in the urban area.

 

“The legislative changes in July 2018 (GEO 75/2018), removed the possibility for the non-governmental organizations to further manage natural protected areas and provided no viable alternative instead.

The National Agency for Natural Protected Areas (NANPA), the authority in charge which took over the duty of managing the protected areas, failed to find the solutions and the resources needed to maintain at least the previous management stage, which resulted in the continuous degradation of Romania’s natural heritage. Meanwhile, Romania is undergoing an infringement procedure because of its incapacity to protect and manage the Nature 2000 network.

Văcărești Natural Park (VNP) is in the same situation. Two years after NANPA took over its management, the park no longer has a dedicated management structure, a scientific committee, an advisory board or a corps of rangers. The park’s regulation is not approved; the management plan, an essential document for the park’s management, is not approved. The visiting infrastructure is degrading. A consequence of the absence of management measures is a troubling decrease in the water level, the expansion of the reed areas and of the invasive flora and fauna species.

In 2018, the park’s conservation and development projects were ceased; these projects would have benefited hundreds of thousands of people. The vision of a project that would have spoken to people, in a simple and effective manner, about conservation, ecosystem services and natural patrimony has been stopped at the same time.

 

The park is in serious danger, unless emergency interventions are staged.

From our point of view, the below issues must be urgently solved:

  1. The Regulation. It has been sent to the Ministry of Environment by the Văcărești Natural Park Association almost 3 years ago (January 2018). Despite having been endorsed by the Scientific Committee and NANPA, it still has not been approved by the Ministry of Environment.
  2. The security of the park. The park needs 24h of 24h security. This may be ensured by a corps of rangers of NANPA or outsourced to a security service. Without it the park’s visitors are in danger. The biodiversity is exposed to poaching and wildfires and the tourist infrastructure is degrading.
  3. The Management plan. It has been drawn up by the Văcărești Natural Park Association. In order to be finalized, it must be undertaken by NANPA, subjected to public consultation and approved by the authority in charge, i.e. the Ministry of Environment. In order for it to produce effects upon the biodiversity conservation, the ecological restoration and the park’s integration into city life, this very important document must be urgently approved; the postponement of its approval has serious repercussions upon the park’s ecological balance and its natural and urban value.

The actions that depend upon the management plan include the following:

  • The management of water. In the absence of the urgent protection and conservation measures and because of the extended draught, the lakes’ level decreased dramatically and the reeds expanded to the detriment of the water areas. The aquatic species have already left the areas where the waterholes dried up.
  • Wildfires. Without security and in the absence of the fire prevention and response plan, the park is exposed to vegetation fires, which may seriously affect the biodiversity, the tourist infrastructure and the visitors’ safety.

Given the aforementioned facts, Văcărești Natural Park Association, together with the signatory organizations, demands to:

  1. Immediately approve the park’s regulation.
  2. Identify and implement solutions to ensure the security of the park as soon as possible.
  3. Implement critical measures for water management and biodiversity conservation.
  4. Adopt the management plan drawn up by the Văcărești Natural Park Association, submit it to public debate and approve it by the end of 2020.
  5. Use the budget allocated through the Environmental Fund Administration for the implementation of the urgent management measures and of the management plan.

 

Văcărești Natural Park, the only natural park located in the urban area, has the capacity to speak about nature and its benefits to people in a way in which no other project can. So far, tens of thousands of people have visited it and participated in education and information programs organized by the Văcărești Natural Park Association and its partners.

Apart from its amazing capacity to speak about nature and its benefits to people, the park also represents a mirror of the capacity of the public authorities in charge to fulfill their duty and to correctly manage the country’s natural patrimony.

As dialogue partners, we hereby kindly request your urgent intervention to ensure the management conditions necessary for the protection of biodiversity, the ecological restoration and the proper development of the only urban natural park in Romania.”

The letter is signed by the initiator, Văcărești Natural Park Association, which got together 28 NGOs, such as Greenpeace Romania, ActiveWatch, WWF România, Societatea Ornitologică Română, Conservation Carpathia, etc.

 

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