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CONCERNS OVER ROMANIAN RIVER MANAGEMENT
EEB members are raising concerns that poor river management in Romania, in particular in the Niraj river, could cause significant ecological damage.
The Niraj River catchment basin is in the Mures region of Romania. Rich in nutrients, the soil of this floodplain is ideally suited for the production of vegetables, meaning that this part of the Niraj River valley is often known as “Carrot Country”. This is more than just an interesting fact, the valley’s water management was traditionally linked with the production structure of vegetables. However, with the increasing production of cereal, the former agricultural and water management practices were discontinued. And, between 1950 and 1970, meanders were cut and the river straightened to transform the wetland into arable land for crop production.
In the last 30 years though, many of these actions were reversed, the river went through a renaturalisation process and the river was repopulated with many different protected species including fresh water crayfish, otters and various species of fish. Indeed, sections of the river became part of the Natura 2000 network and the river as a whole was classified as a water body with a good ecological potential in the River Basin Management Plans. Further, the local community, with support from environmental NGOs, implemented several wetland restoration and sustainable water management projects.
However, all this is now at risk as the water authorities have decided to carry out regulation works with EU funds that would destroy the river’s ecosystem in violation of the Water Framework Directive. The decision was taken after a very superficial consultation that failed to take into consideration the arguments and opinions of the people who were against the project.
Barbara Goby, from the Austrian organisation Umweltdachverband, a member of the EEB’s water working group, warned Romania against “making the same mistakes that Western European countries are now trying to undo by investing huge amounts of money on river restoration projects”.
Goby added: “Experience has shown that in most cases flood protection can be best achieved by giving the rivers more room rather than by building costly dams”.
She drew attention to the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice on the German Weser river, where the Court made it clear that member states must refuse authorisation for any project that might cause the status of a water body to deteriorate.
“All in all the current project [concerning the Niraj river] has to be reviewed again in the light of this new jurisprudence from the European Court of Justice,” concluded Goby.
Focus Eco Center, Romania