Hungarians renew protest at 'forest destruction' as government rolls back some changes

  • In Business
  • 2022-08-17 17:39:35Z
  • By Reuters

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Around a thousand Hungarians protested for the second time in less than a week against a loosening of logging regulations by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government amid increased demand for firewood due to surging gas and electricity prices.

Nationalist Orban's Cabinet, citing the effects of the war in neighbouring Ukraine, loosened regulations on logging earlier this month, which activists and opposition parties say could accelerate deforestation and harm the environment.

After last week's protest and after the WWF collected over 100,000 signatures in an online petition to reverse what it called a decree on "forest destruction," the Cabinet walked back some of the changes, exempting nature reserves from the regulations.

Some protesters who joined Wednesday's rally called by green activists said the response was merely an attempt by the government to defuse some of the tensions raised by the reforms.

"I think this is just a smokescreen. It is designed to calm nerves, but they have not given up on their genuine intentions concealed in this decree," Aniko Radl, a protester, said. "If there is indeed an energy crisis, then we should probably adjust our consumption first."

The government says Hungary can produce 3.5 million cubic metres of firewood per year and the loosening of rules was needed amid an increase in demand, driven in part by Orban's curbing his policy of subsidising household utility bills.

Orban's government says logging would be ramped up only in case of a supply emergency. However, the WWF said only a complete reversal of the loosened rules would guarantee the preservation of Hungary's forests.

"Clear-cutting in privately owned forests, floodplains and military areas is still possible," it said in a statement. "Only the scrapping of the government decree can ensure that the protection (of forests) is restored completely."

(Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo; Writing by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Leslie Adler)


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