If we don’t invest the European money to close the gaps in SUMAL now, then when?

The tools that the Environment Ministry is currently developing to “fully implement SUMAL” are essential and the success of the reform to fight illegal logging, set up by the National Strategy for Forests (SNP 30), depends on them. That’s why, at the beginning of this month, we sent a letter to the Environment Ministry in which we suggested a few elements to be included into the Government Decision that rules how the European money within the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) will be allocated in order to increase Romania’s capacity to supervise, control and monitor its forests through an integrated IT system.

The response we received from the Environment Ministry is elusive and states that our proposals “will be taken into account during the next development of SUMAL 2.0.” Considering that Romania has made a commitment to make SUMAL fully operational, investing the European money in this direction seems the best solution for closing the gaps in SUMAL 2.0 as well. Does the Ministry benefit from other funds, approved by the national budget, to invest in SUMAL this year?

As the investments' list made from the PNRR funds is not public, we wonder how the newly proposed instruments will operate and if they will target the necessary efficiency. Will the monitoring system that uses satellite images manage to turn into a prevention system, and not into a post factum observation one, and to take into account the evolution of the way in which those who commit illegalities operate? We can take the example of overloading – fake statements regarding wood quantities transported from the harvesting site. 

It is important to know if the national video monitoring system, which is to generate alerts in case of an illegal wood transport, will focus on the first timber placing on the market. If so, we should know how it will be sized and what monitoring protocol will use, in order to understand the system’s relevance at national level.

We think that Romania should consider adopting the new, already existing technologies in order to create modern instruments (AI/IT) that automatically generate an “electronic seal” for the transported wood, as well as quickly determine its quantities/volumes. This way, our country would significantly improve its capacity to fight illegal logging by strengthening its prevention mechanisms and would provide a proper answer to the current challenges in the forestry sector. Furthermore, it would remove the human-related bias and would reduce the wood measuring and SUMAL data operating costs.

The investments proposed in this Government Decision should be able to solve the main problems SUMAL faces as part of the control system and should contribute to setting up and turning operational the digital part of the National Forestry Registry, without which we cannot implement a sustainable management system and proper forest monitoring at a national level.

Given the need for a suitable and efficient use of the PNRR funds, we request greater transparency in the decision-making process in order to design and develop solutions aimed at increasing our capacity to control and monitor the forests, as agreed in the SNP30. These strategic directions are to be implemented by revising the Forestry Code and its subsequent legislation by midyear.

WWF expresses its availability to get involved in this entire process with its expertise.

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