Our friends, the dedicated and relentless river defenders of Romania, haven’t had a moment of rest and last week they were delivered bad news that overrides the celebration about saving the Basca Mare.
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Romania’s government recently announced plans to use funds allocated under the REPowerEU package – a plan to rapidly reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels and “fast forward the green transition” – to build 9 hydropower projects in protected natural areas.
This is what ‘green energy’ looks like on the ground. While the people in suits sit in Brussels passing laws and sign energy strategies… the corrupt governments of the world then use them to ignore environmental regulations and bypass legal systems…to fill their own pockets.
Călin Dejeu summed up the effects of this Emergency Ordinance nicely in the Open Letter he submitted to the European Commission last week (English version below). “It is not just about the drying up of the Jiu River on 33 kilometers, the deforestation of the Călimani National Park or the extermination of the Romanian huchen…It is about a series of ecocides with an apocalyptic cumulative impact. It includes the mutilation of two national parks, a nature park, a Ramsar site, 20 Natura 2000 sites and tens of water bodies, in all corners of the country.”
What the Emergency Ordinance means?
Launched in May, REPowerEU is the EU’s plan to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels before 2030. However, many environmental organizations stepped together to oppose this hasty plan. In October 2022 several NGOs, including WWF, the European Anglers Alliance, the European Environmental Bureau, the European Rivers Network and Wetlands international published a briefing paper asking policymakers in the European Parliament and Council to amend the REPowerEU proposal to exclude new or revamped hydropower projects in protected areas.
What does this look like on the ground in Romania? Under the claim that they are “tackling the energy crisis” the two new draft laws and the draft (emergency) government ordinance are intended to resurrect controversial hydropower plants started decades ago, many of which have since been deemed illegal. The ordinance would also exempt the construction of the plants from environmental assessments and allow Hidroelectrica (Romania state-owned energy company) to approve its own feasibility analyses.
Calin explains why this isn’t about energy: “It is about 9 unprofitable hydropower projects that – for an insignificant and extremely expensive production – would devastate the natural heritage of the country, from the heart of the Jiu Gorge National Park to the Ramsar site at the confluence of the Olt and Danube rivers. Through the hundreds of millions of euros (public money) that they will swallow up and the production that will only start after many years and will contribute less than 1% in the National Energy System, the Ceausescu-ist projects only decrease, potentially, the electricity production.”
As well as the two national parks, the plants would seriously damage twenty Natura2000 sites, a Ramsar site and tens of rivers, one of which is the only known breeding site of the endangered Danube salmon in Romania.
Unsustainable Power Production
Ironically, this Emergency Ordnance goes against the European Commission’s previous decisions which has clarified that it will not finance hydropower plants in protected areas and will even trigger infringement if the law initiatives to promote them are brought to completion.
Environmental watchdogs know this is bad news. “The latest moves to prop up Hidroelectrica’s decades-old illegal hydropower projects are a blatant abuse of the energy crisis,” says Ioana Ciuta, president of Bankwatch Romania.
According to an article written by Emerging Europe, with decreasing precipitation levels and water scarcity, it is expected that the discharge of Jiu River (among others) will decrease, while water demand from all consumers (households, tourism) will increase, reducing the efficiency of energy production. For example, earlier this year, production at the largest hydroelectric plant in the country, the Iron Gates on the Danube, fell by 40 per cent due to the Danube’s low levels and reduced flow.
Calin’s open letter does not just condemn the new plan. He offers alternatives. “With these astronomical sums, more energy can be obtained, faster and legally, with minor environmental impact, by allocating them to sustainable, contemporary projects, or to retrofitting and unclogging to the existing hydropower plants.”
According to Pippa Gallop, Southeast Europe energy coordinator at the CEE Bankwatch Network, this is not an isolated case of mis-using the energy crisis to trample over environmental legislation. “What Romania is planning is completely illegal and the European Commission must react promptly.”
– Article by Bankwatch here:
– Emerging Europe article here:
SEND AN OPEN LETTER TO OFFICIALS THAT SHOUD STOP THIS LUNACY.
STEP 1: COPY-PASTE THESE E-MAIL ADDRESSES INTO YOUR E-MAIL PROGRAM:
STEP 2: ADD SUBJECT
Open Letter to the European Commission and the President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis
STEP 3: COPY PASTE THE TEXT OF THE OPEN LETTER
The European Commission should without delay stop, through infringement, the ordinance of ecocides. This is about the draft ordinance posted on the site of the Ministry of Energy from Romania. https://energie.gov.ro/proiect-de-ordonanta-de-urgenta-pentru-stabilirea-unor-masuri-privind-obiectivele-de-investitii-pentru-realizarea-de-amenajari-hidroenergetice-in- curs-de-executie-precum-si-a-altor-proiecte-de-interes/
The infringement case for illegally approved small diversion hydropower plants is open (2015/4036), and in 7 years nothing has been solved, the situation has even worsened by violating the final court sentence for the Taia River. According to the Leibniz Institute in Berlin, considering not the installed capacity but the extremely low potential production and the diversion type, the hydropower project in Jiu Gorge represents a small hydropower project. https://www.igb-berlin.de/en/news/small-hydropower-plants-do-more-harm-good
Analogously, the situation is the same with the Nehoiașu II hydropower plant (”AHE Surduc Siriu”). The Commission closed the complaint CHAP(2016)01813 on the grounds that the final decision of the Bucharest Court of Appeal (no. 5378/2017) resolved the case. But ordinance of ecocides violates decision 5378/2017. The ordinance of ecocides involves the destruction of dozens of Natura 2000 sites and bodies of water, bypassing environmental assessment. And three of the 9 illegal projects in the ordinance have a cumulative impact with projects exemplified in infringement no. 2015/4036 (with those on Ramna, Taia and the projects in the east of the Făgăraș Mountains). Considering the above, the European Commission must act quickly, ascertain that the ordinance of ecocides represents an exponential, ostentatious aggravation of the infringement 2015/4036 and immediately proceed to the contentious stage, send the case to the CJEU.
The President of Romania can stop the ordinance of ecocides, he can physically participate in government meetings and prevent its adoption. It is, after all, a kind of ”OUG 13”, intended to cover those who carried out illegal works on public money. IUCN has already addressed the President of Romania regarding the Zamfir law, which promoted the same illegal projects, but was ignored. https://www.impact.ro/hidrocentralele-pe-arii-protejate-in-romania-scrisori-catre- klaus-iohannis-de-la-forurile-internationale-specialist-atat-de-tare-am-ajuns-sa-ne-facem-de-ras-429363.html
It seems that Romania is no longer part of the civilized world. The ordinance of ecocides is actually similar to the Şarapatin law, the Romanian president should show consistency, given the arguments he used to request the review of the Şarapatin law (CA/726/26.07.2019).
Saving the Bâsca Mare River has been enthusiastically received by civil society throughout Europe, and it is a national shame that efforts to dry up this emblematic river are being resumed. https://balkanriverdefence.org/news/romanian-basca-mare-river-is-saved/
The dam on Bâsca Mare is also given as a negative example in the first IUCN guide on ecological connectivity. https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/PAG-030-En.pdf
It is the darkest moment in history for the natural heritage, for the natural setting of Romania. The neo-ceaushist government in Bucharest tramples the rule of law, the Constitution, the European legislation and the conventions signed by Romania, it wants to exempt even the projects with the worst environmental impact, the ceaushist dams, from the environmental impact assessment. It is about 9 unprofitable hydropower projects that, for an insignificant and extremely expensive production, would devastate the natural heritage of the country, from the heart of the Jiu Gorge National Park to the Ramsar site at the confluence of the Olt and Danube rivers. Through the hundreds of millions of euros (public money) that they will swallow up and the production that will only start after many years and will contribute less than 1% in the National Energy System, the ceaushist projects only decrease, potentially, the electricity production. With these astronomical sums, more energy can be obtained, faster and legally, with minor environmental impact, by allocating them to sustainable, contemporary projects, or to retrofitting and unclogging to the existing hydropower plants, or even to prosumers.
The ordinance is claimed to be issued in order to obtain European funding until 2026, given that these ceaushist dams were prior included in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and removed following the public consultation from the beginning of 2021. Now, some ministers nostalgic of Ceaușescu’s dictatorship show their contempt for citizens and democratic rules and introduce illegal projects to European funding through the back door, this time using REPowerEU (which is not even about hydropower) as a pretext. It is stated that the motivation of the ordinance would befinancial, grabbing European money, but European funding is only used as manipulation to promote criminal projects. The European Commission has already clarified that it will not finance hydropower plants in protected areas and will even trigger infringement if the law initiatives to promote them are brought to completion (Ares(2022)8053032 – 22/11/2022). https://cursdeguvernare.ro/pensii-speciale-irigatii-energie-investitii-comisia- europeana-explica-din-nou-romaniei-ce-poate-si-ce-nu-poate-modifica-in-pnrr.html
It is therefore a case of government deception on an unprecedented scale.
All that is actually wanted is to violate the final court rulings and the environmental legislation of the European Union, to bypass the administrative documents already issued by the environmental authorities (which have already rejected 3 of the 9 projects), in order to authorize some unsustainable, absurd and harmful projects, which have no chance of being legally authorized. To teach a lesson to the judges who dared to respect the principle of the supremacy of community legislation, principle included in the Romanian Constitution. Behind it is the ambition of the ceaushist politicians to teach a lesson to the civil society that stopped the illegal works, so that they don’t interfere in their illegal businesses in the future. It is also a manifestation of the disdain of the ceaushist politicians towards the citizens, since tens of thousands of Romanians signed 4 petitions contesting 4 of the 9 illegal projects.
The parliamentary process is bypassed, when the Zamfir law was rejected by the Constitutional Court of Romania and its subsequent duplication has already received two negative opinions. Never in the history of Romania has a legislative act been issued with such a devastating impact on the natural setting of Romania, its implementation would mean a coup de grace for the national and European natural heritage. Even energy experts admit that the projects in question do not represent renewable energy, because their devastating impact is irreversible.
The 9 projects do not fit into the “green taxonomy” of the European Union, because they fragment the rivers. And they are not projects of overriding public interest because, according to the jurisprudence of the CJEU applied by the Supreme Court of Spain, in decision 424/2020 (and the application of CJEU jurisprudence must be uniform), studies are needed to balance the public interests involved, in order to determine which is overriding one, studies which do not exist.
It is not “just” about the drying up of the Jiu River on 33 kilometers, the deforestation of the Călimani National Park, the extermination of the Romanian huchens, the decrease of the range of some priority species, the deforestation of some priority habitats and the threat of extinction for endemic species, it is about a series of ecocides with an apocalyptic cumulative impact. It includes the mutilation of two national parks, a nature park, a Ramsar site, twenty Natura 2000 sites and tens of water bodies, in all corners of the country.
The natural heritage of Romania also belongs to the European one, the Commission must act promptly for the natural heritage of Romania, as it acted in the case of Poland, for Białowieża.
Dams represent the most serious form of destruction of nature. These clots on the veins of the Earth completely destroy river courses, floodplains and valley slopes. Forests, meadows and cultivated land are replaced by a liquid anthropogenic environment with no conservation value, classified by the IUCN as the Artificial Wetlands Biome (not lakes). The landscape, the natural setting are completely mutilated. Rivers are devastated along their entire length, not just the stretch directly affected.
In Europe, the “de-damming” movement has gained momentum, but the Romanian government is moving against the current, forgetting that there are already thousands of dams in Romania with a devastating cumulative environmental impact.
It is also an attempt to obstruct justice, to cover up those who have already carried out the illegal works, spending public money. For the millions of euros spent illegally on the destructions in Jiu Gorge National Park, there is a file dealt with at the National Anticorruption Directorate. On the very day that the European Commission requested the lifting of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Romania, it is defied by the corrupt people in the government with an ordinance that breaches the Habitats Directive, the Water Framework Directive, the SEA Directive, the EIA Directive, Directive 2003/87/EC and jurisprudence of the CJEU.
This ordinance is associated to a huge pro-dams fake news campaign that precededit, a campaign peppered with vulgar anti-European statements, a campaign that reminded us that Romania ranks 56th in the Press Freedom Index.
The promotion of these illegal projects, which represents a violation of national and community legislation, international conventions, obstruction of justice and violation of definitive court decisions, constitutes an attack on the rule of law and should lead to suspending of the funding of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
It is also a form of fraud of European funds. European funds were spent on studies/strategies, and their conclusions are now being trampled on, it means the financing was not used for its purpose. On the project with SMIS code 1314, it was concluded that the current river discharge must be maintained on Jiu River, in the Jiu Gorge Natura 2000 site, and the “Strategy for economic, social and environmental development of the Jiu Valley” provides for the prohibition of hydropower works on Jiu River, because this destruction is socioeconomically undermining the Jiu Valley. A LIFE-Nature project was implemented in Islaz, with WWF, SOR, the county environmental agencies and the Persina Nature Park from Bulgaria as partners. These projects do not represent clean energy, the reservoirs release enormous amounts of methane and carbon dioxide, and blocking the hydrographic network, the natural movement of sediments, reduces carbon sequestration in the marine environment. The carbon sequestered by riparian and slope ecosystems that are impacted will also end up in the atmosphere. He massive works involved, including concrete production, have a colossal carbon footprint.
It is stated that this financing for REPower EU will be attached to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, but the National Recovery and Resilience Plan has the “no significant harm” eligibility condition, so from the start none of the hydropower projects in question are eligible.
Emblematic elements of Romanian nature have already been destroyed by European funding (the course of the Tisa River, the mountain rivers of Făgăraș and Șureanu, etc.). If this phenomenon were to continue, it would mean that Romania has more to lose from joining the EU.
It violates not only all European environmental directives, but also the Ramsar Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Bern Convention, the Carpathian Convention, the European Landscape Convention, the Danube River Protection Convention and IUCN Resolution 008/2020.
The neo-ceaushist government does not only show its contempt for the European Union, but for the entire civilized world. About the illegal project in the Jiu Gorge, for example, was even written in Science magazine, and the petition to save the Jiu Gorge, now with 33 thousands signatures, is mentioned in the latest UN environmental report on Romania. https://unece.org/sites/default/files/2021-12/ECE_CEP_189_0.pdf The project at Islaz destroys the spectacular Ramsar site “Olt-Danube Confluence”, a nature paradise. https://peterlengyel.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/situl-natura-2000-confluenta-jiu- dunare/
If these projects of Ceaușescu are now approved absolutely abusively and undemocratically, by emergency ordinance, it means that, in terms of the environment, the foundation of the quality of life, and in terms of democracy, the Romanian Revolution took place in vain, the Romanians died in vain in December 1989.
STEP 4: SIGN YOUR NAME AND STATE WHICH COUNTRY YOU COME FROM
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STEP 5: SEND
Click send and hope the recepients of the email will use their hearts and brain to stop this completely unneccessary destruction of nature which we all benefit from.
STEP 6: LET CALIN KNOW YOU SENT THE EMAIL TO THE OFFICIALS
Send an extra email to firstname.lastname@example.org letting Calin know you sent the email. It will help him and the others involved to know how many people from how many countries have send the open letter to these people.
Just in case, the open letter in word is here: