5 Legal and Institutional Framework for Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use of Its Components

5.1 Overview

Romania has demonstrated its interest in, and commitment to, the conservation of biodiversity and natural areas through signing of international agreements, the passage of national regulations and the designation of a large number of protected areas. Despite these efforts Romania has experienced difficulties in implementing policies and strategies to achieve effective biodiversity conservation.

There is a lack of a comprehensive conservation management strategy as well as appropriate institutional arrangements for biodiversity conservation. Coordination among the various governmental organisations involved with nature protection activities is often inadequate and the public participation into the decision-making process often occurs on an ad-hoc basis.   

Within Romania there is an excellent foundation of scientific research and well trained scientists and engineers. However scientific research is largely uncoordinated at the national level and data and information that is collected is neither centralised nor easily accessible. A well defined and coordinated institutional structure for evaluating, monitoring and managing protected areas in Romania is needed.

5.2 International Agreements

Romania has played an active role in many international environmental issues and is a Contracting Party to most international and regional environmental agreements and conventions.

Romania has ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and of major significance this is legally binding within Romanian law. This not only underscore Romania’s commitment to the principle of biodiversity conservation, but it also provides a legitimacy for incorporating biodiversity protection into the Romanian regulatory framework. The difficult task has been to incorporate biodiversity conservation principles effectively into coherent policies in all economic sectors, to develop and implement clear management plans for protected areas, and to achieve enforcement of laws (see Appendix 5).

Romania is also an active participant in regional environmental initiatives such as the Danube Environmental Programme, the Black Sea Environment Programme, and the Environment for Europe process. (see Appendix 9). The Danube and Black Sea Programmes, which are largely focused on water quality improvement, have recognised the important connection that exists between land-use management and water quality. Through effective protected areas management and land use policies - in particular protection and restoration of wetland areas - water quality improvements in the Danube and Black Sea will be achieved. These improvements will not only benefit Romania but other countries as well. Romania is also participating in several European Union programmes including PHARE and activities working on improving environmental standards and conditions within Romania (and harmonised to EU standards).

5.3 Existing Legislation

There are various national laws and regulations that relate to biological diversity and that attempt to support nature protection and conservation within Romania (see Appendices 7 and 8). Despite these strong efforts to incorporate environmental principles into the regulatory framework, these laws and regulations are often unclear, overlap, and are inconsistent. Further, they are inconsistently enforced by the responsible authorities.

A new law for Environmental Protection (Law 137/1995) passed in December 1995 is a framework law that is intended to be followed over the next two years with additional specific laws relating to protected areas and other environmental issues. A copy of the Law is attached as Appendix 7.

5.4 Conservation Administration and Policy

A variety of Romanian governmental organisations have responsibilities for some aspects related to biodiversity and it can be safely said that the institutional arrangements for biodiversity conservation and the management of protected areas are not clearly defined. Efforts to protect biodiversity are therefore hindered given that no single governmental organisation acts as a central coordinator for biodiversity/nature conservation/sustainable development issues and can coordinate the involvement of other national institutions, set policy and implement programmes, and direct and manage organisations active at the field level.

The largest part of the responsibilities for nature protection and management belong to the Ministry of Waters, Forests and Environmental Protection (MWFEP) and the branches or agencies affiliated with the MWFEP (see Appendix 6). The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, however, has its own management structure (assisted with international support). The Commission for the Protection of Nature Monuments of the Romanian Academy is the legal scientific authority for nature conservation and protected areas. For the protected areas located on forest land the management is ensured by foresters from the autonomous agency ROMSILVA.

Local authorities are responsible for land-use planning but with no capacity and qualified staff for incorporating biodiversity/nature conservation into their policies. The 41 Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) offices (County MWFEP offices) have legal responsibility for environmental monitoring and nature conservation. It is important that the new laws stipulate the separation of the regulatory responsibilities, and the functions and management responsibilities for natural resources.

5.5 Management of Protected Areas

According to the Law 82/1993, the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve has its own administration with qualified staff responsible for the implementation of the management plan, is directed by a Governor and has specific regulations and by-laws. With the exception of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, there are no conservation management plans for protected areas. The Commission for the Protection of Nature Monuments of the Romanian Academy has direct scientific responsibility for all categories of protected areas (strictly protected areas, national parks, nature monuments, natural reserves and protected landscapes). Where these are forest areas ROMSILVA has management responsibility.

Despite the inadequate management structure, Romania's commitment to nature protection can be evidenced by its designation of 584 protected area covering a total surface of 1,140,590 ha, or 4.8% of the area of the country. Of this area 580,000 ha is in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve and the remaining 12 parks consist of an additional 400,000 ha.
Unfortunately the designation of nature protection areas is not a clear and consistent process and the currently established protected areas should be reviewed to determine the adequacy of their geographical distribution, their effectiveness in protecting the biodiversity values, and the extent to which they cover the whole heterogeneity of ecological systems. Of major concern is that there exists at present no coordinated network of protected areas.

The forestry sector manages over 6,300,000 ha of forest and is mandated to manage them sustainable. Valuable about Romanian forests is the large number, and quality and size, of natural or near natural forests. See Table 2.

Particularly important examples exist in Piatra Craiului and Bucegi. These areas are valuable examples of previously existing forests in Europe and can be an important biological reserve and template for restoration of forests in other parts of Europe. In 1995 a national forestry management strategy was developed with short, medium, and long-term plans. Each of these contain regulations concerning biodiversity conservation in protected areas and forests. While there has been some encouraging progress in the management of forests there is as yet no such management plans for grasslands or steppe ecosystems within Romania. These areas also contain important species in need of protection.

5.6 Research and Scientific Activities

Romania has a strong scientific research tradition in the natural sciences. Scientific research is carried out by various universities, organisations and institutions. There is a national research programme in ecology, together with local applied research programmes that are addressing various aspects of biodiversity and nature conservation. A primary drawback is that research and scientific activities are not coordinated or prioritised. Further there is no centralised system for organising and disseminating information. An analysis of the various research activities should be undertaken in order to develop a coherent, focused, and cost effective research programme for biodiversity conservation.

Not always connected with university and research programmes there are a number of initiatives for ex-situ conservation in botanical gardens, parks, dendrological collections, flower collections, aquariums, terrariums, gene banks, and collections of micro-organisms that are of interest for agriculture, for food and other industrial sectors, and for a variety of other biotechnological applications that are now developing.

5.7 The Role of NGOs

Since the political changes in 1989 environmental NGOs have played an increasingly important role in environmental issues in Romania. The number of NGOs has increased to almost 200.

NGOs, including highly professionalized groups and local volunteer organisations, have undertaken a wide range of initiatives, including contributing pressure to achieve policy or management improvements and organising various field activities (garbage clean-up, species protection, acting as wardens etc.). Together with local, regional, and international governments and agencies and institutions, NGOs have also often organised or participated effectively in cooperative projects in the interest of biodiversity conservation. In the Danube Delta, for example, the organisation Pro Delta, the Danube Delta Institute, The Biosphere Reserve Authority and the World Wide Fund for Nature, have together undertaken restoration of wetland areas unsuccessfully drained for agriculture.

The Romanian government acknowledges the importance of public participation as well as the importance to the democratic process of NGOs. As yet, however, there are only limited official means for NGOs to voice their opinions or provide direct input into official decisions affecting the management of biodiversity.

5.8 Environmental Education

Romania has a very well educated population with a large pool of well trained scientists and engineers and strong university traditions. Training programmes for environmental, ecosystem and protected areas management are not yet instituted (only the University of Bucharest has a programme for Environmental Management) and should be at both the national and local level.

5.9 Weaknesses in the Legal and Institutional Structure Relating to Biodiversity

Although there is considerable interest and recognition of the values of biodiversity in Romania it is clear that there are a number of institutional and regulatory weaknesses that hinder the protection and sustainable management of these resources. The National Biodiversity Strategy should seek to address these problems, which include: