Former environment ministers László Miklós (Party of Hungarian Coalition (SMK); in office 2002-06) and Jaroslav Izák (Slovak National Party (SNS); in office 2006-08) are under investigation in connection with alleged damage caused by bark beetles in the High Tatra mountains, the Office of the General Prosecutor confirmed on Thursday, August 23, the TASR newswire reported.
According to deputy general prosecutor Ctibor Košťál as well as prosecutor Ladislav Hanniker, who spoke to journalists at a press conference, if the former ministers are found guilty, they could each be punished by up to eight years in jail. They are accused of allowing extensive damage in the Tichá, Kôprová and Javorová valleys covering an area of up to 70,000 hectares. Material damage caused by the beetle infestation has been estimated at €9 million, while additional non-material ecological damage has also been reported. Many experts and witnesses are due to be interviewed.
According to the prosecutor's office, Miklós and Izák failed to take action and approve the logging of trees felled by a huge windstorm that hit the High Tatras in 2004, felling thousands of trees. This, prosecutors claim, resulted in an extensive area of forest being damaged by bark beetles. Both former ministers have filed complaints against the accusations.
The Sme daily reported that present environment minister, Peter Žiga, shares the opinion of his predecessors that in the High Tatras, a natural reserve with the highest level of protection, logging is not allowed and that nature can manage the crisis itself. However, Hanniker argues that the 2004 windstorm caused an emergency in which the usual ban on logging wood was not applicable, Sme wrote.
Sources: TASR, Sme
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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24. Aug 2012 at 10:00