Over a thousand Hungarians protested Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s loosening logging regulations. This was due to an increase in wood demand from rising prices of electricity and gas.
In light of the effects of the war in Ukraine, the Cabinet of Nationalist Orban relaxed regulations regarding logging earlier this month. Opposition parties and activists worry that this will lead to further deforestation, and worsen the environment.
The protests last week, and over 100,000 signatures by the WWF on an online petition to reverse a decree addressing “forest destruction”, led to some changes being reversed by the Cabinet. They also exempted nature reserve from the regulations.
Green activists called Wednesday’s demonstration to demand a peaceful solution. Some protesters, however, claimed that the government was trying to reduce tensions resulting from the reforms.
“I believe that this is a smokescreen. They are trying calm nerves, but have not abandoned the true intentions hidden by this decree,” Aniko Radl (a protester), said. “If there’s an energy crisis, it is important that we adjust our consumption first.”
According to the government, Hungary is capable of producing 3.5M cubic meters of firewood per year. In light of increased demand, the rules were relaxed. This is partially due to Orban’s decrease in his subventioned household utility bills policy.
Orban’s government claims that logging would only increase in an emergency. According to the WWF, only the complete reverse of loosening rules could ensure Hungary’s forests are preserved.
Clear-cutting private forests, floodplains and military areas is still allowed, according to the decree. Only the repealing of the government decree can ensure forests are fully protected.
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