06 Mar 2014 20:30
The villagers of Pungesti, Romania are unlikely eco-activists. The tiny village garnered worldwide attention in October 2013 when villagers started protesting against US energy giant Chevron's fracking activities in their village. Hundreds of activists from across the country also flocked to the Pungesti to support the residents in their fight. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, consists of pumping chemicals at high pressure into deep rock to extract oil or gas. The village's inhabitants, most of whom are elderly farmers who rely on agriculture to survive, are worried fracking could damage the local environment by contaminating their land and ground water. They say fracking will lead to health problems, air pollution and deforestation. Following the protests, police and gendarmerie increased their presence in the village and many residents were subsequently injured in protests that turned violent.
In 2010, the Romanian Government quietly allowed fracking operations to commence by signing an agreement with Chevron, giving it access to more than two million acres of land in Romania. The villagers managed to collect over a thousand signatures from a population of 3,300 for a petition demanding the dismissal of the mayor, who they accuse of corruption. However, the Romanian government disregarded the petition and the mayor remains in office.