Green infrastructure

1.  POLICY SETTING

  • Romania's National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2014-2020) sets the general strategic framework for biodiversity and nature protection in the country, identifying strategic objectives and corresponding actions to be implemented by 2020. Green infrastructure is implicitly addressed, for example, under the strategic objective ‘Assurance of coherence and efficient management of the national network of natural protected areas’. Foreseen actions include, e.g. analysing the coherence of the natural protected areas and ecological corridors; harmonising the management measures of cross-border protected areas with those of neighbouring countries; evaluating the way in which the current road transport network fragments natural habitats and habitats of wild species of conservation interest and propose solutions to reduce or eliminate fragmentation (such as ecoducts, fauna bridges).
  • The Territorial Development Strategy of Romania 2035 refers to Green Infrastructure as a more efficient way of adapting to climate change and diminishing natural risks, compared to using grey infrastructure alone. Specific measures foreseen by the strategy include the protection of natural habitats (by ensuring diversity of and interconnectivity between natural areas, particularly in the context of Natura 2000 management) and the development of green spaces in urban areas, as well as green belts in the surroundings of major cities. More broadly, the strategy mentions that “developing green infrastructure, avoiding landscape fragmentation and reducing the impact of fragmentation through ecological networks, especially Natura 2000, is key to maintaining a sustainable environment” (Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration, 2015, author’s translation).
  • The 2014-2020 Partnership Agreement (strategic plan with investment priorities covering the European Structural and Investment Funds) reiterates the need to promote green infrastructure. The Agreement lists ecological corridors, green bridges and eco-passages as examples to reconnect artificially fragmented natural areas (Trinomics et al., 2016). 
  • Connectivity through Green Infrastructure is a priority action under the European Strategy for the Danube Region (Trinomics et al., 2016).
  • In 2009, the project “Implementation of adequate management systems for nature protection”, consisting of ecological restoration of the Comana Wetland in Giurgiu County was funded under the Sectoral Operational Programme Environment. A key area of intervention was the “Development of infrastructure and management plans to protect biodiversity and Natura 2000”, in order to reconnect the floodplain and the rivers, thus reducing what had become a predominantly terrestrial environment. The overall project cost was EUR 1.8 million (Trinomics et al., 2016). 
  • WWF in partnership with the Ukrainian NGO RachivEcoTur implemented the project “Open Borders for Bears between Romanian and Ukrainian Carpathians” in the regions of Maramures, Romania, and Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakarpatska, Ukraine. The goal of the project was to reduce habitat fragmentation, identify the critical corridors and the related reconstruction needs and secure sustainable use of natural resources. The critical habitats and wild life corridors are components of a Green Infrastructure delivering multiple benefits. The project was funded in 2012 by the EU under the 2007-2013 Joint Operational Programme Hungary-Slovakia-Romania- Ukraine. The overall budget was EUR 937,834 with EU funding amounting to EUR 844,050 (Trinomics et al., 2016).
  • The LIFE project Connect Carpathians – Enhancing landscape connectivity for brown bear and wolf through a regional network of NATURA 2000 sites in Romania (LIFE12 NAT/UK/001068) aims to enhance landscape connectivity within an ecological corridor located in Western Romania. This corridor consists of a network of Natura 2000 sites situated between the Apuseni Mountains and the Southern Carpathians and is the only route through which flagship species such as bears and wolves can move between the two areas. The project runs from September 2013 to February 2019. Project activities aimed at enhancing functional connectivity include: building capacity of responsible agencies and Natura 2000 site administrators in landscape scale conservation; involving local stakeholders in connectivity management; securing land to develop linkage corridors; managing corridors to create carnivore-permeable landscape (Connect Carpathians, 2014).
  • The Lower Danube Green Corridor (LDGC) aims to coordinate national efforts and cross-border cooperation among the Lower Danube countries for the protection and restoration of wetlands and floodplain habitats. The governments of Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova committed in 2000 to establishing a large-scale ecological corridor of up to 1 million ha of existing and new protected areas and 223,608 ha of areas was proposed to be restored to natural floodplains (Trinomics et al., 2016).
  • Several objectives of the Carpathian Convention (adopted by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic and Ukraine) relate to GI: the conservation, sustainable use and restoration of biological and landscape diversity, ensuring a high level of protection and sustainable use of natural and semi-natural habitats, their continuity and connectivity, maintenance of semi-natural habitats, the restoration of degraded habitats, develop an ecological network in the Carpathians, integration of conservation and sustainable use of biological and landscape diversity into sectoral policies (Carpathian Convention, 2003).
  • The SURF-Nature project (2010 - 2012) was a partnership of 14 public bodies from 10 EU countries (including Romania) responsible for implementing ERDF funds. The overarching goal of the project was to improve regional policies and practices for nature conservation and biodiversity by increasing the financing of respective measures through the ERDF and increasing their impact. As one of the focus topics of the project was GI, the project involved the creation of an expert and stakeholder network, identifying and highlighting best practices, analysing success factors for ERDF-funded biodiversity and conservation projects, and providing trainings for capacity building and experience sharing.  

 

2.  IMPLEMENTATION OF GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

 

3.  MAINSTREAMING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

Nature

The EU Natura 2000 network is at the core of the EU's Green Infrastructure. By the end of 2015, 22.56% of the national land area of Romania was covered by Natura 2000 (EU average 18.1%), with Birds Directive SPAs covering 14.83% (EU average 12.3%) and Habitats Directive SCIs covering 16.68% (EU average 13.8%). There were 539 Natura 2000 sites in Romania, including 9 marine sites. The terrestrial sites consisted of 148 Special Protection Areas designated under the Birds Directive, and 382 Sites of Community Importance (SCI´s) designated for the protection of habitats and other species. In 2016 Romania resumed the designation process by designating new SPAs and proposing new pSCIs. Beyond Natura 2000 areas, the natural environment of Romania is characterized by a variety of traditional landscapes. Extensively managed, high-nature value farmland and forests support remarkable biological diversity, but such areas are under threat due to agricultural intensification and the abandonment of traditional, extensive management practices (European Commission, 2017).

Agriculture

The Rural Development Programme contributed to protecting High Nature Value (HNV) farmland. Out of the 2.4 million ha of HNV grassland identified in Romania, 1.2 million ha have been protected by granting financial compensation to farmers who undertook commitments to apply management requirements (BISE, 2015).  

Forestry

The Forestry Law (No. 46/ 2008 as subsequently amended) establishes principles for the sustainable management of forests in Romania. These include: promote practices that ensure the sustainable management of forests; ensure the integrity of the forest stock and forest permanence; increase forest coverage (BISE, 2015).

Urban policy

The National Climate Change Strategy (2016-2030) includes among its strategic objectives the “protection and extension of natural recreational areas in cities and their surroundings”. The Territorial Development Strategy of Romania 2035 includes a measure to develop green space in urban areas and green belts around large cities. It mentions the need to start a process of planning public space and developing networks of green space in urban areas. It also mentions that the creation of green belts requires both their inclusion in planning documents and their operationalisation through legal and fiscal measures. It is unclear to what extent implementation of these measures has progressed.

Transport infrastructure

The Master Plan for Transport in Romania 2030 mentions the need to respect conservation measures in future projects, including integrating non-structural and green infrastructure measures and avoiding negative impacts on protected areas, forested areas and non-protected areas where species of community interest are identified by reconsidering route plans (Trinomics et al., 2016).

Tourism

The Territorial Development Strategy of Romania 2035 includes a measure on developing tourism networks with a view to harnessing the potential of unique Natura 2000 sites. It underscores the importance of Natura 2000 sites for regions and mentions that they should be used, for example, to attract more visitors and develop eco-tourism activities. A related measure foresees the elaboration of management plans to regulate, among others, tourism activities within protected areas and in their vicinity, in order to stop landscape degradation.

Climate change

The National Climate Change Strategy (2016-2030) mentions that biodiversity conservation and the restoration of degraded ecosystems contribute to reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience to climate change. Specific measures mentioned by the strategy include, among others: restoring vegetation that can moderate climate extremes through soil formation and retention, increasing soil permeability, and reducing surface temperatures; sustainable use of natural resources in order to prevent extreme events such as floods. The strategy also sets the objective of increasing the capacity of biodiversity to adapt to climate change, by improving conservation status, restoring degraded ecosystems, establishing and further developing ecological corridors and refuge areas both within and between Natura 2000 sites, and implementing in-situ conservation measures.

 

4.  FINANCING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

Examples of funds that (can) support GI initiatives in the country:

  • European Structural and Investment Funds: Under Romania’s Partnership Agreement 2014-2020, nearly EUR 5 billion is allocated to the thematic objective “preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency.” Proposed priorities for funding include: - “Protection of biodiversity through the development and implementation of management plans/ conservation measures/ species action plans, development of general conservation measures for all SPAs and SCIs and investment in conservation actions and ecological restoration of degraded ecosystems, including Natura 2000 sites, in order to achieve EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and Habitats/Birds Directives targets;”

- “Preserving and enhancing ecosystems dependent on agriculture and forestry through promoting organic farming, environmental and climate actions on agricultural and forest land including in High Nature Value farming and Natura 2000 areas;”

- “Implementing measures to tackle the causes of abandonment of agricultural activities through payments granted to farmers in areas facing natural or other specific constraints, (…) measures that will also contribute to soil preservation, carbon sequestration or other environmental benefits. Nature protection and conservation through a coherent and functional Natura 2000 network;”

- “Protecting and sustainable valorisation of natural sites including measures for urban environment through rehabilitation of unused and/or degraded public spaces and buildings.”

In addition, EUR 2 billion have been allocated to the thematic objective “promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management”, which may also include actions related to GI implementation.

The Large Infrastructure Operational Programme includes a specific objective (SO 4.1) on ‘increasing biodiversity protection and conservation status’ with a budget of around EUR 350 million (including funds from the European Regional Development Fund and national co-financing). The objectives of the programme for SO 4.1 are:

- Supporting Natura 2000 habitats to achieve better conservation status – 60,000 ha;

- Developing management plans for Natura 2000 sites – 70 management plans;

- Establishing operational management bodies (administrators or custodians) in 531 Natura 2000 sites;

- Restoring degraded ecosystems – 2000 ha (representing 10% of Romania’s degraded ecosystems).

Green infrastructure development is not a direct objective of the programme, but it is envisaged as a potential activity within implemented projects.

  • The Interreg V-A Romania-Hungary Programme (2014-2020) finances cross-border cooperation initiatives in the Romanian-Hungarian border area through the European Regional Development Fund and co-financing by the Governments of Romania and Hungary. The objectives of Priority axis 1 - Joint protection and efficient use of common values and resources, Specific Objective 6c Conserving, protecting, promoting and developing natural and cultural heritage - are to increase visits to supported sites of cultural and natural heritage and attractions and to support Natura 2000 habitats (4000 ha) to achieve better conservation status. Projects directly related to GI objectives may be proposed, with important cross-border impact.
  • The European Environmental Agency (EEA) and Norway Grants can support GI implementation through the programme on environment, climate change adaptation and ecosystems (in 2014-2021, the programme grant amounts to EUR 20 million and co-financing is EUR 3.5 million).

 

5.  CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR GI DEVELOPMENT

In the framework of a previous study on GI (Trinomics et al., 2016), national experts identified the following challenges and opportunities with respect to GI implementation in the country:

Challenges/gaps/needs

  • Given that the Green Infrastructure approach in Romania is closely linked to protected areas, one of the main obstacles against its full uptake is the delayed elaboration and approval of management plans and rules due to the long and difficult approval process. Other obstacles include the need to reorganise and rationalise the decision-making process, the need to build the administrative capacity of the delegated ministry, the lack of resources for assessing the plans, the weak quality of some of the plans, and the fact that restrictive measures within the plans require compensating land owners.
  • The Prioritised Action Framework for Natura 2000 in Romania for 2014-2020 identifies the following priorities to ensure the efficient implementation of management plans: finalisation of the process to designate Natura 2000 site administrators; implementation of the actions included in the plans with precedence to those that support the management process; ensuring resources necessary for the management process including infrastructure; and education and awareness raising of the large public.
  • If the large investment in infrastructure (motorways, speedways, railways, water and sewage networks, waste management facilities, etc.) needed in the near future is not properly planned, integrated and assessed, it will threaten habitat connectivity. In this respect, a thorough development and implementation of Operational Programmes taking Green Infrastructure into account should be envisaged.
  • An opportunity for further uptake of Green Infrastructure is LIFE Funding, in particular where improving the functional and spatial connectivity of ecosystems is concerned.
  • An opportunity to spur the uptake of Green Infrastructure in Romania is the use of technical assistance to access available funded measures with innovative projects. In particular, the MAES process in Romania can provide spatially explicit prioritisation and problem identification in relation to Green Infrastructure implementation.

Opportunities

Benefits

  • Floodplain restoration along the Lower Danube Green Corridor has been estimated to cost EUR 183 million euro. Economic benefits are through:
    • the avoidance of damages due to floods (e.g. the 2005 flood resulted in EUR 396 million in damages);
    • expected earnings of EUR 85.6 million through ecosystem services (e.g. fisheries, tourism) per year. Each hectare of restored floodplain is estimated to provide EUR 500 per year in ecosystem services, helping to diversify the livelihoods of local people (Climate-ADAPT, 2014).

 

6.  KNOWLEDGE BASE

  • A national MAES process has started, funded by the EEA, Norwegian Grants and EU through DG Environment’s service contract “Mapping of Ecosystems and their Services in the EU and its Member States” (MESEU) (European Commission, 2017).
  • The project “Demonstrating and promoting natural values to support decision-making in Romania”  implements the MAES process in Romania and has the following aims: to assess the level of integration of the concept of ecosystems and ecosystem services (ecosystem approach) in public policy for the period 2014-2020 in order to develop recommendations on integrating the results of mapping and biophysical assessments in decision-making processes; analysis and data management for the MAES process; mapping and biophysical assessment of the priority ecosystems and ecosystem services (BISE, n.d.). 

 

7.  LIST OF CONSULTED REFERENCES

BISE (2015). Romania - Contribution to the mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 based on the 5th national report to CBD. Accessed 7 April 2017: http://biodiversity.europa.eu/mtr/countries/romania/

BISE (n.d.). MAES-related developments in Romania. Accessed 7 April 2017: http://biodiversity.europa.eu/maes/maes_countries/romania

Carpathian Convention (2003). Framework convention on the protection and sustainable development of the Carpathians: http://www.carpathianconvention.org/tl_files/carpathiancon/Downloads/01%20The%20Convention/1.1.1.1_CarpathianConvention.pdf

CEEWeb (2015). Report from the Conference on Implementing the Green Infrastructure Strategy in Romania: Policy and Practice. Accessed 13 October 2016: http://www.ceeweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/ARAD-GI-Conference-in-Romania-Report-Draft.pdf

Climate-ADAPT (2014). Lower Danube green corridor: floodplain restoration for flood protection: http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/metadata/case-studies/lower-danube-green-corridor-floodplain-restoration-for-flood-protection

Connect Carpathians (2014). LIFE Connect Carpathians. Project website: http://connectcarpathians.ro/?lang=en

European Commission (2013). Green Infrastructure (GI) – Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital. COM(2013) 249 final.

European Commission (2014). Summary of the Partnership Agreement with Romania, 2014-2020: https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/partnership-agreement-romania-2014-20_en

European Commission (2017). The EU Environmental Implementation Review Country Report – Romania. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/report_ro_en.pdf

INTERREG Romania-Hungary Programmehttp://interreg-rohu.eu/en/programme-overview/

Memorandum of Understanding on the implementation of the EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021: http://eeagrants.org/Where-we-work/Romania

Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration (2015) Strategia de dezvoltare teritoriala a Romaniei: România policentrică 2035. Coeziune şi competitivitate teritorială, dezvoltare şi şanse egale pentru oameni. http://www.fonduri-structurale.ro/Document_Files/Stiri/00017493/7hctm_Anexe.pdf

Strategia națională privind schimbările climatice și creșterea economică bazată pe emisii reduse                                                                de carbon pentru perioada 2016-2030 [National Climate Change and Low Carbon Green Growth Strategy 2016-2030], Annex 1 to Government Decision 739/2016, available at: http://www.mmediu.ro/categorie/strategia-nationala-privind-schimbarile-climatice-rezumat/171

SURF-nature Project (2013). SURF-Nature: home. http://www.surf-nature.eu/

Trinomics, ALTERRA, Arcadis, Risk & Policy Analysis, STELLA Consulting, and Regional Environmental Centre (2016) 'Green Infrastructure in Romania', in Supporting the Implementation of Green Infrastructure, Final Report to the European Commission under Service Contract ENV.B.2/SER/2014/0012, Annex I. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/ecosystems/pdf/Green%20Infrastructure/GI_RO.pdf