Integrated system for Natura 2000 management and awareness raising in Romania

The National Environment Protection Agency

The National Environmental Protection Agency is a specialised institution of the central public administration, subordinated to the Ministry of Environment. The Agency and its 42 regional offices are in charge of implementing policies and EU and national legislation on environment protection. This is done through strategic environmental planning which involves monitoring environment parameters, assessing the environmental impact of human activities, as well as reporting to the European Environment Agency on air quality, climate change, protected areas, soil, water and others.

The challenge

The Agency was created in 2004 as part of the reform of the national environment protection system, in view of the country’s accession to the EU in 2007. Until then its responsibilities were fragmented among various local and regional environment agencies on Romania’s territory. The Agency had to provide the regional agencies with the technical support and normative documents necessary for the harmonisation with the acquis communautaires. In particular, the Agency proceeded to the implementation of Natura 2000 – the centrepiece of EU nature & biodiversity policy which establishes a Europe-wide network of protected areas. However, given the previous fragmentation of protection measures on its territory, the Agency needed a common, online source of knowledge on Romanian habitats, seamlessly shareable with all local and regional actors with a role in protecting them.

The satellite solution

Thanks to co-financing of European Regional Development Fund, the Environmental Protection Agency initiated SINCRON, a project aimed at establishing an IT infrastructure for an integrated system for the management of and awareness raising on Romania’s Natura 2000 network. The solution integrates a powerful Geographic Information System (GIS), combining background satellite data, derived from SPOT satellite high-resolution multispectral images, with very high resolution aerial imagery. These high-resolution images provide the necessary cartographic support for graphical delimitations of habitats and are used to identify relevant natural and man-made elements which have an impact on the protected sites. Structured geospatial information is integrated in the protected sites’ management plans and a lot of geographical information is automatically derived from highly accurate GIS data, ensuring the best information available to site administrators, NGOs and stakeholders. 

The result

Thanks to SINCRON, national as well as regional environmental protection agencies can share and act in a coordinated manner, on the basis of the same, up-to-date information, online. In terms of management issues, for instance, building permits are delivered with solid knowledge of any threats to habitats and their nature. Mitigation and awareness raising measures are taken where necessary. In October 2013 for instance, in the county of Caras-Severin, about 100 pupils from the county’s 10 high schools participated in a tree-planting campaign in Rusca Montana, a Natura 2000 site. 

Quote: “Much of Caras-Severin County are protected areas — parks, reserves, Natura 2000 sites. […] Protected areas management plans – including those resulting from the SINCRON project – set out measures to be taken for the conservation of species and activities that can take place in these areas”. Horia Irimia, Vice-President, ANPM