The success is largely due to WWF’s involvement in developing the national operational programme and the integration of WWF proposals to protect biodiversity.
Romania has set aside €350 million for biodiversity protection for the period 2014-2020 under the Operational Programme Large Infrastructure (OPLI), now officially adopted by the European Commission. This is €130 million more than the funds set aside for 2007-2013 and 7 times what was initially envisioned for the 2014-2020 period.
The success is largely due to WWF’s involvement in developing the national operational programme and the integration of WWF proposals to protect biodiversity. The programme has one priority axis specifically dedicated to biodiversity conservation, while also incorporating biodiversity protection within transport infrastructure and flood risk management projects, among others. The main objective of Romania’s OPLI is to promote sustainable economic growth and the safe use of natural resources. The programme will mainly invest in removing transport bottlenecks in Romania, but with an attention to developing sustainable, green transport modes.
Romania is one of the richest European countries in terms of natural resources. It has some of the largest remaining areas of virgin and natural forests in Europe outside northern Scandinavia and Russia and some of the largest populations of bears, wolves and lynx in Europe. The Lower Danube shared by Romania and Bulgaria is also home to the last viable wild populations of sturgeons in the EU – a source of livelihood to fishermen until decades ago.
Poor transport, energy infrastructure and risk management plans for floods and droughts can not only have an adverse impact on these rich habitats, but also have high social and economic costs – like severe flood damages or rivers drying up to improperly planned hydropower. Nature wins for the 2014-2020 period – Romania will seek green infrastructure solutions to extreme weather events like floods and droughts, whose incidence has increased. For example, wetlands will be maintained and restored because during floods they act as a giant sponge and absorb excess water.
Moreover, this programming period NGOs with expertise in wetland restoration will be able to partner with authorities on OPLI projects for adapting to climate change and manage such extreme risks.
– Small hydropower will not be eligible for funding under OPLI and will not be considered an investment priority in the Partnership Agreement approved by the European Commission either. Hydropower is popularly considered green energy, but their construction in protected areas, as well as the lack of good control over their construction and operation can lead to extremely negative impacts on nature like rivers drying up or fish stocks depleting.
– Creating and maintaining ecological and migration corridors for species and restoring ecosystems in protected areas will be a priority. Precedence will also be given to setting aside funds specifically to implement conservation measures from Natura 2000 protected area management plans and action plans. The funding for developing Natura 2000 management plans will continue.
– Big transport infrastructure projects like highways will take into account the need for green infrastructure (e.g. using new solutions for building passages and bridges) in order to reduce the negative impacts on biodiversity.
WWF will closely follow the development of relevant projects, in particular in transportation, energy, climate change and risk management, to ensure that environment measures are implemented both on paper and in reality, says Raluca Dan, Policy Manager at WWF Romania.