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

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The European Data Journalism Network is carrying out an investigation on wildfires across Europe. Among the different geographic focus, PressOne produced a series of articles about Romania. The latest reportage by Laura Popa stressed the connection between rural depopulation, inadequate governance, and environmental issues contributing to the wildfires in Romania.

In the “Romania is burning” series, rural depopulation emerges as a significant factor contributing to fires in Romania. In her latest contribution, the author Laura Popa shifted the focus to the village of Carașova, situated near the Semenic-Caraș Gorge National Park. As the population dwindles due to emigration, especially among the younger generation, traditional farming practices decline, leading to neglected fields and pastures. The elderly, dependent on farm subsidies, resort to setting intentional fires to clear land quickly and cheaply, despite prohibitions by the Romanian agency providing subsidies (APIA).

The reportage highlights the complex interplay between depopulation, economic challenges, and the environmental impact on the region. The mayor of Carașova acknowledges the issue and attempts to address it through public meetings, emphasizing the need for a shift in local practices. However, the lack of penalties and ineffective enforcement contribute to continued burning. Concerns raise about the conflicting relationship between the Semenic-Caraș Gorge National Park and the local community, with some perceiving the park as a hindrance to development.

Photo: Laura Popa

Officially, no fires were reported in the park between 2018 and 2020, according to Romania’s forestry agency, Romsilva. However, unofficial sources estimate about 540 hectares of the park are affected by wildfires annually. Additionally, the reportage stressed the challenges in monitoring and enforcing regulations, pointing out the limitations of reporting and assessing fire damage. The broader context of wildfires, climate change, and the need for preventative measures remains a topic of discussion, with a proposed solution involving the use of sensors to detect and monitor fire-prone areas.

In conclusion, the interconnected challenges of rural depopulation, inadequate governance, and environmental issues contribute to the ongoing problem of wildfires in Romania. We invite you to read the full article, which is part of the Wildfires in Europe investigation

Author: Beatrice Bellavia (Euromontana).