: Ukraine's forests on the verge of extinction
Crime17:14 Apr. 14, 2016
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Ukraine's forests on the verge of extinction

Illegal poaching ruins unique Carpathian eco-system

Carpathian mountains in western Ukraine are known for beautiful nature and dense forests. People from all parts of the country like to travel here to get away from the city noise.

The mountains are also popular among tourists from Europe but unfortunately this area could soon become the site of an ecological disaster. The forests are rapidly vanishing. The local poachers are responsible for the illegal clearance. 

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Photo by zak-kor.net

Every year they cut down around 300 000 hectares of these trees. Locals say, dozens of trucks transport the wood every day. Crooked dealers earn millions of dollars selling the lumber abroad. If nothing is done, the Carpathian forest could potentially disappear in the next ten years.

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Photo by zak-kor.net

The smugglers are using various tactics to cover their tracks. For example, they mark young trees as dead-wood in the documents. Others work without any permission. They cause damage not only to nature but the Ukrainian budget too.

Regional police have been conducting several investigations regarding the clearance. However, it did not deter the poachers from destroying the forest. Activists say, local authorities are protecting the smugglers. They call it "forest sanitation". "Everything is completely legal here", said Vasyl Prorochuk, the director of a national park where the trees are being cut down, in an interview with Ukrainian journalists. After several pickets, Ukraine's Ministry of Ecology has agreed to find a replacement for Prorochuk. However, other areas are still in danger.

Photo by zak-kor.net

Read also Ukraine's forests under attack as illegal amber mines mushroom

In order to prevent the disappearance of the forest, in 2015 Ukraine adopted a law which prohibits the export of unrefined wood for ten years. But the bill was slammed by the European Union representatives. They claim this decision violates the economic part of the association with the E.U.

"Prohibition of unrefined wood export goes against Ukraine's responsibilities as a member of the World Trade Organisation", Nicholas Burge, head of E.U.'s trade and economic section in Ukraine, wrote for Ukrainian news agency "Novoe vremia" (New time). "It also goes against key points of the free trade deal according to which both sides have agreed not to impose any restrictions on the export in any way".

Burge claims this law has nothing to do with saving the Carpathian forests. "If Ukraine wants to protect its nature - including the unique Carpathian mountains - E.U. will gladly help. Ban of clearance in certain areas would be completely understandable, if it concerns everyone, of course".

Photo by zak-kor.net

After consulting with the European colleagues, the Ukrainian lawmakers offered to cancel the prohibition law in three years. Their decision was immediately criticized by the local citizens and activists. They think Europe is interested in buying cheap Carpathian wood while preserving their own forests. In fact, several European states encourage their private companies to purchase wood from Ukraine. Hungary, Romania, Austria and Slovakia offer financial aid to those interested in importing the lumber from Ukraine.

Sergii Oganesyan for Ukraine Today

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