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Minister of Environment, Water and Forestry Costel Alexe announced the kickstart, this spring, of the broadest ever degraded land afforestation campaign, aimed at soil protection, restoring the hydrological balance and improving environmental conditions.

Attending a meeting, this week, with members of the Association of Romanian Municipalities (ACoR), Alexe said: "In spring this year, as part of the Forest Month, we will start the broadest afforestation campaign Romania has ever seen. A working group has already been set up within the Ministry, tasked with organizing the entire campaign. Romsilva will provide the seeding material, the seedlings necessary to cover the entire surface outside the afforestation plan of the National Forestry Administration Romsilva. Spring must find us best prepared."

According to a release of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forestry, ACoR representatives agreed that the Territorial Administrative Units (UAT) should identify as soon as possible the degraded land surfaces and other land fit for afforestation works. Association first vice-president Mariana Gaju said that the afforestation measures apply not just in mountain areas, but also for all arable or degraded land in rural areas.

"Also envisaged are the EU-funded projects which can virtually contribute to biogas investments, which could use the material from forest cutting or degradable materials," Gaju said.

ACoR president Emil Draghici proposed the conclusion of a partnership agreement between ACoR and the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forestry, for closer cooperation and consultation between local and central public authorities.

The Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forestry, in its capacity as technical coordinator of the degraded land afforestation actions, is funding from the state budget and via the Fund for the improvement of land intended for forest, the elaboration of the technical-economic documentation, the effective afforestation and maintenance of degraded land, as well as the guard of the sites until they reach the state of forest massif.

Specialized units certified by the central public authority responsible for forestry will be tasked with working out the technical-economic documentation and carrying out the necessary works for degraded land improvement by afforestation. The land owners (UAT, associations, individuals) whose property sits inside the improvement perimeter retain their property rights, both during and after the completion of the works provided for in the legally approved technical-economic documentation.

According to the Ministry, other subjects tackled during EnvirMin Costel Alexe's meeting with the ACoR representatives were landslides, practicable forest roads the local authorities could maintain if they were transferred under community administration, red tape and cumbersome procedures for the release of environmental permits, derelict irrigation channels that pose a real danger for communities, selective waste collection. AGERPRES (RO - author: Daniel Badea, editor: Oana Tilica; EN - author: Simona Klodnischi, editor: Adina Panaitescu)

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