The changes that the Environment Ministry announced regarding the timber tracking system SUMAL are welcome and will close a series of already-known small „pitfalls”, but they are not essential. Romania is basically adjusting a suit it plans to get rid of anyway, because these amendments build on an ineffective system, which must be fundamentally changed. SUMAL is only an electronic instrument and, if the score is not good, the instruments cannot make the difference.
Romania agreed to completely change the entire controlling system of the illegal activities in the forests, both through the National Strategy for Forests 2030 (SNP30) and the PNRR. This new architecture has already been drafted in SNP30 and should become operational through the new Forestry Code, as an organic law.
Unfortunately, the draft submitted to public consultations is far from properly implementing the Strategic Action Directions set by the national strategy for forests. We are stuck with the same ineffective illegal logging combat system, focused on marking the trees, selling the standing wood and identifying unmarked stumps in 7 million hectares of forest.
What we would have liked to see in SUMAL
- Closing the loopholes that give one the possibility to manufacture the legal origin of timber.
- Implementing the digital footprint of timber transports. This is an artificial intelligence tool that can perform an expeditious evaluation of transported volumes, that can stop the „overloading” of transports and identify their uniqueness, to put an end to multiple transports as a mode of operation.
- Automated check of the transports registered in SUMAL. Our monitoring activities have proved that a significant number of transports, registered in SUMAL, do not comply with the requirements. But who can check them, if tens of millions of photos are uploaded annually?
- Designing an automated and transparent alert system through SUMAL.
- Suspending the right to use SUMAL for operators or professional transporters who, repeatedly, do not comply with the transparency requirements regarding the correct upload of all data in SUMAL.
A reform of the current controlling system is obviously necessary, as well as changing the focus from „marking” and guarding the trees in the forest to controlling the wood that gets out of the forest.