Vacaresti Lake, on the south side of the Romanian capital, is about to become a protected area.
Vacaresti Lake, on the south side of the Romanian capital, is about to become a protected area. This is a project introduced by several green associations who want this site to become a place of clean air, recreation and research.
Around two centuries ago, Vacaresti monastery was built there, but in the years of the communist urban overhaul it was demolished to make room for the project to systematize Dambovita River in order to fend off flooding in the Romanian capital. Work started there in 1986, but it was halted in 1989. The 200 hectares of that area are now canals and swamps fed by underground rivers that created an area that nurtures species such as cranes, cormorants, swans, ducks and foxes. During spring and autumn migrations, the area is very important for several species of rare migratory birds. This ecosystem resembles closely that of a river delta, and the levee around it keeps it isolated and quiet. Aware of the significance of this area, last year ecologists started the paperwork on providing official protection for the area. Here is Dan Barbulescu, executive director of the Save the Danube and Delta Association:
Dan Barbulescu: “This is a wetland area with natural springs, and due to the fact that access is restricted, an interesting, one hundred percent natural habitat has formed here. Since it is surrounded by the concrete buildings of Bucharest, it is picturesque, and it also has a certain scientific and ecological value. As a result, the area was turned into a nature park, a protected area set aside for scientific studies. This initiative emerged last year, when a group of experts went to the area and evaluated the species there, filing the findings with the Romanian Academy, which endorsed the creation of Vacaresti Nature Park, in May this year.”
Researchers say that the area has the features of a wildlife reserve. This puts Bucharest on the list of European capitals such as London, Berlin or Prague, all having similar protected areas. Dan Barbulescu once more:
Dan Barbulescu: “We have here over 90 species of birds, 40 of them protected under Romanian and European legislation. They are rated as endangered species in need of protection. You can find here otters, snakes, insects, which makes for a very interesting landscape. Given the Romanian Academy endorsement, the Romanian authorities are bound to apply protection. It is an area that has scientific, tourist as well as educational potential. It is a living museum where the inhabitants of Bucharest can see nature at its best. The area is huge compared to similar places in Europe, it has 200 hectares. Most European parks are 15 to 30 hectares, and are mostly rebuilt. Here we have an authentically natural area in Bucharest, which the City Hall should protect and manage properly.”
The Save the Danube and the Delta Association, along with Let’s Do It Romania, put together a clean-up of the area with 300 volunteers, which gathered 700 bags of refuse and recyclable material. This is part of the initiative called “Vacaresti Nature Park. An oasis in a concrete desert,” implemented in partnership with the Ecopolis Center for Sustainable Policies.
Soundbite: “We held an open lesson for the students in the area. We had some ecology, biology and geology workshops, organized together with experts in our initiative group, children and teachers from the area. The children were very glad when our snake expert showed them live specimens. The area can be a living lab, and may be significant for the schools in the area.”
Volunteering is only the beginning for the campaign to promote Vacaresti Nature Park. Soon this initiative will include meetings with representatives from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, articles in the media and a public petition through which the inhabitants of Bucharest may demand the establishment of Vacaresti Nature Park. The petition can be signed starting September 26 on Facebook.