Vacaresti park, a wild wetland that has sprung up between apartment buildings near downtown Bucharest, is Romania's newest protected wetlands preserve. Ben Gruber, reports.
STORY: It's one of Europe's largest urban wetlands…and it came about by accident. Hiding amid towering apartment blocks outside downtown Bucharest, Vacaresti park has been given protected status. SOUNDBITE (Romanian) VACARESTI NATURE PARK DIRECTOR, DAN BARBULESCU, SAYING: "No one was expecting that behind this tall landscape where so many people pass by every day, there would be such life, a rich, balanced ecosystem." Vacaresti park is the result of a communist-era plan to build a lake in southern Bucharest, an idea abandoned in 1989. What started off as a massive pit hidden from view by a concrete embankment has flourished into a wild nature preserve - home to protected species like the red-breasted goose. SOUNDBITE (Romanian) VACARESTI NATURE PARK DIRECTOR, DAN BARBULESCU, SAYING: "Bit by bit, nature has built a place that lives without intervention. This place was not constructed, species were brought here just by chance." Around 100 species are found here, including Western marsh harriers, turtles, and otters. Protected status will allow the park to be a safe haven for animals retreating urbanization - and give locals welcome respite from busy city life.