This year, the award in the Equability category of the Sustainable Development Gala, organized by the Romanian Government, went to the Tara Hategului UNESCO Geopark
This year, the award in the Equability category of the Sustainable Development Gala, organized by the Romanian Government, went to the Tara Hategului UNESCO Geopark, in the west of the country, a project designed and implemented by Bucharest University. The motivation for the award was the following: “The notion of Equability is derived from the idea that justice is the first virtue of societies, and translates into a plethora of concepts that are based in a fundamental moral principle, that of respecting the rights of others. We are talking about a series of values such as equality, justice, humaneness, honesty, equal access to resources and opportunities, but mainly honest collaboration. One model of champion of this vast area of equity is the Tara Hategului Dinosaur Geopark”.
This was the speech when the award was handed to Prof. Alexandru Andrasanu, instructor at the School of Geology and Geophysics. The very concept of geopark comes from the idea of sustainable development based on equability, as the professor told us, as project leader:
“A geopark has the elements of a territory, elements with geological value, as well as natural and cultural value, and, in partnership with local communities, proposes a strategy for conservation, development, tourism promotion, and brand building, of a tourist destination, a territory for sustainable development. It is the way in which, although geoparks follow the same principles, each is unique in its local identity elements, the approach of the team, initiatives, and the creativity we propose. In Hateg Country the fundamental starting elements were the results of research into midget dinosaurs, which made the area known at the international level. Then we realized that, in addition to the dinosaurs, Hateg Country has some very important natural elements, but mainly it has a tradition at least two thousand years old, and has very well individualized communities, with their own identity.”
In fact, one territory that got the status of UNESCO International Geopark can only follow economic development in agreement with the protection of the environment, offering equitable living conditions for all inhabitants. All the Sustainable Development Objectives (SDO) in Romania's Strategy – 2030 Agenda can be identified among the objectives followed in Hateg Country. The Geopark is part of the UNESCO international program for geoscience and geoparks, which cover 161 territories in 44 countries. It is a territory with natural and cultural values, with a sustainable development program that proposes traveling back in time, along the entire history of the Earth, 4.6 billion years. This includes elements of special geological interest, next to those of ecological, archaeological, historical, and cultural interest. These can be types of rock, minerals, fossils, geological phenomena, wild flora and fauna, and are available for visiting, being discovered, and being appreciated. The midget dinosaurs in Hateg Country are unique in the world, and their scientific importance and attractiveness is enhanced by the discovery of nests with dinosaur eggs and young, as well as mammals contemporary with dinosaurs, and giant flying reptiles. The geopark is a space for discovery, tourism, but also for education, for both locals and visitors. Its purpose is, in the end, to preserve the natural riches of the area for the following generations. We asked Alexandru Andrasanu how they plan on going about this:
“First of all, with educational activities of conserving and promoting local values. Last year we started development for a project which invites tourists and locals alike to discover the values of the region, to appreciate and respect them. It is the 'discover- appreciate- respect' concept, a gift we make to tourists, but also a gift that people receive and can offer to visitors. At the same time, the geopark is in a nature reserve with its own rules for conservation. We are partners with the Retezat National Park and with the Gradistea Muncelului Cioclovina Nature Park, which correspond with the ecotourism destinatino, so that there is a framework for conservation and awareness raising, promoting some rules to respect nature.”
First and foremost, international geoparks aim to attract visitors that are interested in spending quality time, in discovering geoproducts, and spending their money to the benefit of local communities. Trips through the network of geoparks means an adventure that is meant to uncover secrets kept for tens of millions of years, from the time when continental drift gave bright to the scenery of now. International geoparks are considered the UNESCO territories of the 21st centuries, because, as in a puzzle, each member owns a fragment of the Story of Earth. They are, according to the international organization, the caretakers that transmit the memory of earth to the next generations. With their interpretation of the past, geoparks have a role in preparing local communities for the current and future challenges posed by climate change, and in good management of the material and non-material heritage.