EDJNet’s investigation on European wildfires looks at Romania (Part II)

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As part of EDJNet’s investigation of wildfires across Europe, PressOne has been working on a series of articles about Romania. This article by Laura Popa was published on the European Data Journalism platform and PressOne.

The article by Laura Popa dives deeper into real-life incidents where such fires led to tragic consequences. A need for greater responsibility emerges, both in adhering to regulations and in raising awareness about the risks and environmental impacts associated with burning practices.

Despite many efforts, the combined effects of human behaviour and climate change continue to contribute to the recurrent occurrence of these devastating fires.

The data extracted from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) for Romania reveals a concerning trend in vegetation and forest fires over the years 2020-2023, positioning Romania in the top ranks for vegetation and forest fires in Europe.

The primary cause of these fires is determined to be human activities. Specifically, individuals burning fields or plant debris as part of agricultural practices are the main contributors to these fires. These intentional actions result in severe consequences, including loss of life. In 2022, 15 people lost their lives due to out-of-control fires, while 42 individuals suffered injuries.

Despite warnings and regulations against such practices, burning debris remains a common method used for clearing dry vegetation in agricultural lands. Experts’ opinions vary regarding the effects of these fires on soil and flora. Some argue that burning debris results in a loss of organic matter, harming the soil’s biological activity and contributing to erosion, while others claim that the resulting ash can serve as a beneficial fertilizer.

The detrimental impact of these fires extends beyond human life to the environment and wildlife. Furthermore, the fires negatively impact biodiversity, destroying seed stocks in the soil and affecting pollinators and agricultural crops.

Efforts to prevent these fires are ongoing, involving various authorities, educational initiatives, and penalty systems to dissuade such practices. Nonetheless, challenges persist in enforcement, as a considerable number of cases go unsolved or unpunished.

The article is part of the Wildfires in Europe investigation. You can discover more here.

Author: Beatrice Bellavia (Euromontana).