To: Andreas Beckman, WWF Danube-Carpathian Program (DCP)
Erica Stanciu, Carpathians/Forests & Protected Areas Program, WWF DCP
From: Mircea Matei, Pollution Free Sebes!
Dan Mercea, ICDER
28 October 2008
Dear Mrs Stanciu
Dear Mr Beckman,
Pollution Free Sebes! is an initiative group based in the town of Sebes/Romania, which has a population of 37,000. Its goal is to stop the pollution generated by Kronospan, an international wood processing company, which has an industrial plant located in Sebes. The Independent Centre for the Development of Environmental Resources (ICDER) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Cluj-Napoca. It implements programs and projects to defend the public’s constitutional right to a clean environment; to help develop the NGO sector in Romania, and to improve the decision-making processes of public authorities.
Both groups have been closely monitoring Kronospan’s activities in the town of Sebes. Over time these have had an adverse impact on the local environment and the health of the local population. It has been estimated that Kronospan’s five chimney stacks release 36,000,000 cubic metres of chemical emissions per day and 1.8 tonnes of fine wood dust, impregnated with formaldehyde and other toxic matters. The constant and elevated discharge of substances such as PM10i respirable particulate matter and formaldehyde are of particular concern, given PM10’sii known contribution to premature deaths and formaldehyde having been classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation.iii
Kronospan has also been operating its Sebes plant in breach of important laws. During 2007 the company built an extension to their Sebes formaldehyde plant for which they have neither environmental nor construction permits. In February 2008 Kronospan’s current factory had a technical accident which led to the release of 800kg of formaldehyde. The company did not report the accident. Fortunately it was detected by an air quality monitoring station installed by the local environmental protection agency (EPA). Not that this has been the only case of substantial formaldehyde emissions by Kronospan Sebes in 2008. According to the EPA by mid-July 2008 legal limits of formaldehyde emissions into the environment had been exceeded on 13 occasions.iv
In addition, criminal proceedings have been started against employees of Kronospan Sebes because they wilfully released substances into the atmosphere which in return endangered the health of the local population.
It has come to light that several branches of WWF have active partnerships with Kronospan Sebes. According to information available on the internet,v WWF’s Danube-Carpathian program has received funding of between 70,000 and 250,000 Euros from Kronospan Sebes for a project entitled “Sustainable Forestry in Romania”. In addition local media reported in September 2007 that WWF representatives met with Kronospan Sebes to discuss further collaboration between the two organizations.vi
Given Kronospan Sebes’ poor environmental record, and its detrimental impact on human health, we call on you to disclose full details of the nature of WWF’s relationship with Kronospan, including the total amount of funding that WWF has received from the company. We also call on you to release a public statement about WWF’s position regarding the activities of Kronospan Sebes, and in particular the company’s flagrant disregard for binding environmental legislation.
As things stand it seems clear that Kronospan Sebes is using its relationship with WWF in an attempt to ‘greenwash’vii its activities, and that you as WWF have no problem with this. According to http://www.wwf.org the ultimate goal of WWF is “to build a future where people live in harmony with nature.” If this is so, then your organization should not be accepting funding from a company that is poisoning the people of Sebes, damaging the natural environment, and willfully ignoring environmental laws in order to maximize its profits.
We look forward to your response, as will many other environmental organizations in Romania.
Pollution Free Sebes!
i Limit of daily admitted value of PM10: 50ug/mc|; Average annual admitted value of PM10 – 20ug/mc.
Values of PM10 measured at Sebes on 23.10.2008: 112.67 ug/mc. Values of PM10 measured at Sebes on 24.10.2008: 77.98 ug/mc.
vii See www.kronospansebes.ro , http://www.ziarulunirea.ro/art.php?cat=18&pg_id=12072 , http://www.ziarulunirea.ro/art.php?cat=29&pg_id=10583 , www.wwf.at/de/menu300/artikel105/?foto=624, http://www.ulpiajurnal.ro/index.php?page=ziar&cat=4&art=381 and http://www.bife.ro/upload/Bife-Timb%202007_site.pdf