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Climate, Air Pollution and Cancellations – March 3 to 12 in Bucharest

Not much will be happening here, or anywhere for that matter, over the coming weeks, and likely the coming months as well, but before the measures taken to slow the spread of the new coronavirus caused the events already planned to be canceled and made any new plans pretty much impossible, there were two more events that did take place and I wanted to mention. Since I hadn’t quite recovered from the flu yet, I didn’t attend either, but I do have some information about the protest that took place on March 4, at least. About the debate about pollution and the climate crisis that took place the previous evening, I can’t say I know much of anything, but it was supposed to be between 8 PM and 10 PM, in a bar that the regulars from this leftist group seem to gather in, so I guess I’ll just mention that and move on.

The protest was again organized by Declic, this time at the Ministry of Environment, starting at 1 PM. The reason was once again the level of air pollution in Bucharest, after the limits were exceeded even more than ten times in the early hours of March 2 and the application that’s supposed to alert subscribers about emergencies didn’t even send any messages. This means it wasn’t just another protest taking place during the day, but also one on very short notice, so the organizers were understandably concerned that hardly anyone will show up and the gas masks and signs they brought will remain unused. However, this time around there were dozens of participants, so they quickly ran out of gas masks, the message sent after the event stating that they had 17 of them, and none of the cloud-shaped signs were left unused either.
The media was definitely interested in the event, television stations reporting live and quite a number of articles being published. That would have made it even worse if only a few people would have showed up, as it tends to happen when protests take place at such hours, during a weekday, but this time there were enough participants for the reporters to work with, the resulting impact being much greater than the turnout itself would have generated, seeing as dozens of people doesn’t actually mean much on its own.
Either way, the representatives of Declic met with the Minister, delivering the signatures gathered on their petition demanding the rapid modernization of the air quality monitoring system all over the country and real-time reports sent to citizens as well as to the European Environment Agency. According to the report sent by Declic, there was a “tense moment” when they pointed out that the institutions responsible should have sent notifications, including to the Minister, about the conditions that existed Sunday night, but otherwise the activists stated that they were pleased with the proposed plans, which include modifying the air quality monitoring application in order to notify citizens when the pollution exceeds the limits, adding 15 more monitoring stations by the end of September and an additional 16 until next year, and setting up a center tasked with creating three-day air quality forecasts, similar to weather forecasts. Mere promises don’t count though, so activists said that they’ll keep an eye on the actual actions that will be taken and further meetings were scheduled, starting with one on March 10, about the air quality monitoring sensors. I’m not seeing anything about how that went though.

Other than that, after a first tree planting event that took place on March 7 and was mostly a publicity stunt, politicians, including the President, taking part, the campaign should have started on March 14. Actually, since the massive campaign announced by the Ministry of Environment should have started on March 21, I guess that’s only the campaign once again sponsored by OMV, which is unfortunate to say the least, but nevertheless no reason to refuse to do a good thing. However, after the volunteers had all signed up for those March 14 events, the NGOs organizing them made changes to their plans and took measures to increase the safety of the participants and follow the regulations and recommendations enacted as a result of the new coronavirus starting to spread in Romania as well, and people were even asked to sign up for the March 21 events, announcements came that all such events were canceled. These announcements only came from the NGOs participating in OMV’s campaign, and I for one received nothing from the Ministry of Environment, be it information about any event set to take place or a cancellation announcement, after having also signed up for their campaign, but I can only assume that the part of the Ministry’s campaign involving volunteers was canceled as well.
This seems to have been a decision made pretty much on the spot, since I first saw messages asking people to sign up for the March 21 events, which were supposed to be the main ones taking place this spring, on March 9, then the messages were repeated the next day, only for the cancellations to be announced on March 11. It was said that the campaign was delayed until autumn, but since such campaigns take place each spring and autumn, it only means that the spring campaign was canceled, at least as far as volunteers are concerned, since I saw that another participating NGO, not the one organizing the event I had signed up for, stated that they’ll work with foresters to plant as many trees as possible without the use of volunteers. That’s something, at least, but it still strikes me as once again sacrificing long-term projects for a short-term crisis, and I was hoping that they’ll at the very least organize some urban tree planting events, with few volunteers in each location and no need for this kind of transportation, involving some 50 people being stuck in each bus for hours. But I guess there will be no such thing either…

While this isn’t something that actually belongs in such reports, I’ll also mention here that part of the Botanical Garden’s Spring Cleaning was canceled as well. It was supposed to take place on March 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22, but things changed after the first weekend. Unfortunately, I decided that it was too soon after recovering from the flu, so I didn’t go then, and on March 12 there was an announcement stating that the events scheduled for March 14 and 15 are canceled and volunteers can no longer sign up for those scheduled for March 21 and 22. The announcement also stated that a final decision about these last two days will be taken later, and I guess some may be thinking that a small event, with only the few who had signed up in advance, might be possible, but the situation is only getting worse, so the chances of that happening seem pretty much zero to me, as do those of the activities being rescheduled, even in April. So it seems that I won’t be attending any such events this spring…


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