The Disappearance of the Protective Windbreaks in Bucharest

Over the past few years, we have all noticed that Bucharest is becoming an ever more suffocating place, because of the heat and also due to pollution and dust. Additionally, there are significant temperature differences between down-town areas and the outskirts, creating what is known as the heat island effect, an aspect that was previously discussed in Greenly Magazine. What I would like to highlight is the cause behind mounting pollution levels, rising temperatures in the city and an increase of the snow layer during winter.

A primary cause could be found in the city’s expansion, which involves increased traffic levels and a higher density of buildings and communication lanes, associated with a simultaneous decrease of green areas, and another reason, a very important one, is the alteration of Bucharest’s protective windbreak forests that surround the city. Many people tend to think that an increased number of cars and fewer green spaces are the leading causes behind air pollution in cities, and this is definitely true to a certain extent, but it does not fully explain why Bucharest is becoming more and more toxic. An important cause for this evolution is the reduction in the surface of windbreak forests located at the city’s edge.

In accordance with Law no. 289/15.05.2012, windbreak forests are defined as a surface covered by trees, with a thickness of at least 30 metres, with trees of various types, and whose purpose is to protect certain objectives (roads, towns or villages, factories, etc.) against snow accumulation, drought, erosion and to reduce pollution and refresh the air of human settlements. The creation of such windbreaks is mandatory. The law specifies that windbreak forests can be publicly or privately owned, and the state plays an important role in their management. Windbreak forests have a specific composition, according to their importance. There are main tree species, that form the basis of the windbreak, and also secondary trees and shrubs with a supportive role, as seen in Figure no. 1.

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Fig. no.1 Distribution of trees in a windbreak forest

The decrease in size suffered by Bucharest’s windbreak forests happened because certain businessmen had an interest in making massive and quick profits by cutting down trees, especially in  Băneasa Forest. It once occupied an area of approximately 80.000 hectares north of the city (Figure no.2), close to  Băneasa neighbourhood, and has  both ecological and cultural significance, as it is mentioned in the writings of Mircea Eliade, such as Noaptea de Sânziene. In 2007 alone, three hectares were destroyed, and in 2011, another 34,24 hectares suffered the same fate. For the construction of just one apartment building, a massive deforestation on 3000 square metres was committed in Tunari. Most of these acts were motivated by the need to clear land for the construction of houses, without any regard for the protection of the forest, which has therefore suffered a massive ecological downturn. In theory, the area is protected by law and no buildings can be erected in its space, but the reality is different. Those involved in projects of urban expansion, by constructing new residential developments, do not know the forest’s role in regulating the city’s temperature,  which reduces the difference in temperature between day and night by 1-4°, and between average winter and summer temperatures by 1-2°. Furthermore, the forest refreshes the air and reduces pollution caused by industry and transportation, storing 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare per year and producing almost 30 tonnes of oxygen yearly for every hectare.

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Fig. no.2 The windbreak forests located around Bucharest

Until drastic measures will be enforced in order to put an end to such interests, the forests that surround Bucharest, and particularly Băneasa Forest, will continue to vanish slowly but surely.

Sources:

1. Bucharest’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Research, Innovation and Development Section

2. http://www.cdep.ro/pls/legis/legis_pck.htp_act_text?idt=35288

3. http://jurnalul.ro/special-jurnalul/anchete/silvicultorii-si-au-luat-padurea-baneasa-acasa-643344.html

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C4%83neasa_Forest

 

Article written by Mirela Micu and translated by Mihail Mitoșeriu.

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Acest user este dedicat tuturor colaboratorilor Greenly! Studenti, masteranzi, doctoranzi sau pur si simplu oameni din intreaga tara, din intreaga lume care impart aceeasi pasiune, ecologia. Si isi doresc sa-si imparteasca ideile prin intermediul revistei Greenly. Le multumim din toata inima!
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