Category Archives: Environmental

Eugen David vs Goliath

Romanian villagers face down Canadian mining corporation over cyanide lake.

A small charity has succeeded in blocking a multi-billion dollar Canadian gold-mining operation in the Romanian village of Rosia Montana. Romania’s new Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, has promised a “transparent” investigation into the controversial project “so that permitting decisions take into account the national interest, environmental protection and European legislation.” This could set the project back by at least five years. Continue reading

East Europe’s Toxic Timebomb

An edited version of this article was published by Time (see their version here).

On Sunday October 4, 2010, the small Hungarian village of Kolontar was evacuated.  Local officials had been warned that the dam at the nearby Ajkai alumina plant was about to be breached.  The following day over 700,000 cubic metres of caustic red mud burst out of the storage reservoir and a two metre toxic wave devastated Kolontar and two other villages, killed 8 people, hospitalized 150, contaminated over 1,000 hectares of farmland and polluted 3 river systems. An intense political drama about responsibility for the spill is being played out in Hungary, with furious statements by the Prime Minister (“This should have been  detected”), the nationalization of the operating company (MAL) until compensation is paid and the temporary arrest of its CEO, Zoltan Bakonyi, a controversial figure whose father ran the Environmental Department at the Ministry of Industry around the time when the alumina plant was privatised. Continue reading

Bucharest by bike

crw_4455__bromptonThe best way to get round Bucharest is by bike. Bucharest has no ring roads and the result is gridlock. Getting anywhere by car is slow and frustrating. Public transport is good but very overcrowded.

Non cyclists tell me that cycling in Bucharest is dangerous, that Romanian drivers are crazy and that there are no proper bike lanes. But even the most insane speed freaks can’t do much in Bucharest where traffic moves at a snails pace (but watch out for the sons of the Nomenklatura who come out at night to race on the Boulevards). And if you keep your ears open you can hear the motorbikes and Kamikaze BMW drivers from miles away. Continue reading

Waiting for 2012

peak_oilI was asked to write an article for Dilema Veche on the theme “what can we expect in 2010?” and this is what I think.  But what do you think? Please leave your comments below. Rupert Wolfe Murray

This year will be much like 2009: political infighting, economic crises and passive discontent.  Nothing new or useful can be expected from the new government and the media will be filled with the arguments and illicit affairs of Romania’s irresponsible leaders. Continue reading

SE Europe gas crisis is a timely warning: move to renewables or freeze

moscow-2007-8We should be grateful to the Russians and Ukranians for the warning that central Asian gas supplies are insecure.  We must heed the warning and start moving more urgently to renewable sources of energy, as this is the only way for the EU to have energy independence.  The Kiev – Moscow row about gas bills has been going on for years and is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

As passive consumers of Central Asian gas all we can do is understand the situation, learn from this crisis and start investing in alternative sources of energy.  We must not take for granted a regular supply of gas.  Interruptions will become increasingly common, if only because the investments are not being made in new production and transport infrastructure.  The recent Continue reading

Go green or go under

Are there any political leaders in the EU who say we must (urgently) move to renewable-energy-transport and that road-building can no longer be our top transport priority?  The issue is becoming urgent and we must prepare for the risk of oil depletion and global warming (which could result in a 6 metre rise in sea levels).

Even a small risk of oil running out should be enough to make us urgently review our transport sector.  Continue reading

Get on your bike

Imagine a form of transport that is virtually free, gets you healthy, and can get you anywhere within Bucharest in less than an hour. Is the humble bicycle the answer to our transport problems?

Anxiety is growing about the price of oil, which has quadrupled in recent years and shows no sign of coming down in price. Suddenly, renewable energy and alternative forms of transport are looking more attractive than ever before.

As a long term resident of Bucharest (I first came here in 1986) I can guarantee that there is no better way of getting around town than a bicycle; it is fast, cheap and healthy. And I have tried it all: car, bus, tram, metro, foot, skateboard. Cycling is ideal for business people as they value their time, health and money. But you do have to be aware of the risks. Continue reading

Cars have more rights than people

The ancient historian Herodotus had some useful advice for the travellers and writers of his day: in order to understand a situation you must ask lots of people the same question. I have been following Herodotus’s advice for some years now by asking people I meet in Bucharest — taxi drivers, policemen, old ladies, shopkeepers – “Why are people allowed to park their cars on the pavements?” Continue reading

A green proposal for Romania

Adevarul made a sensational discovery last week – it found a copy of Romania’s post accession strategy. It made for depressing reading. By 2025, the strategy stated, Romania’s population would be decimated, the economy would be on its knees and the level of poverty would be sky high.

But this is not a strategy, at best it could be called an “analysis”. What the authors did was simply take current social and economic trends and project them into the future, coming up with their gloomy prognosis. It lacks the essentials of a strategy: a goal, a target, something to which the country (or at least the politicians) can strive towards; not to mention the public consultation and publicity that accompany similar strategies in normal countries. Continue reading

How I became green

Ever since my history teacher explained about global warming I knew we were in trouble. But it was too depressing to worry about. What could I do about global warming, pollution and the preservation of the countryside? Like most people, I assumed there was nothing I could do; I put the issue to the back of my mind, went traveling and got on with my life. Continue reading