Progressives in Poland demand effective measures to prevent river pollution

Over the past few months, tons of fish and other living creatures have been found dead in the Oder river. Environmental groups and people living on the banks of the river in Poland have been protesting the contamination

September 05, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
River Pollution - Poland
Mobilization by Save the Rivers Coalition. (Photo: via Justyna Budzyn)

Environmental actions groups in Poland are protesting the inaction by the government on the contamination of rivers across the country. On Saturday, September 3, hundreds of activists, gathered on the call of the Save the Rivers Coalition at the historic Siekierki-Neurüdnitz bridge on the Polish-German border under the banner ‘Together for the Oder River.’ They demanded immediate measures to prevent the  contamination of the river. Activists are calling to resist the contamination of the Oder river and fight corporate intervention in the name of conserving the river.  

Over the past few months, fish and other creatures have been found dead in the Oder river, leading to agitation by environmental groups and people living on the banks of the river in Poland. The government and its authorities have been accused of reacting slowly to the crisis. Those living on the banks of the river and activists removed tonnes of dead fish from the river at different spots. Even though several reports attribute the mass mortality to mercury poisoning, Polish authorities have reportedly stated that the crisis was caused by the growth of golden algae. 

Opposition parties, including the Polish left, slammed the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party-led government for its insensitive approach in handling the crisis as well as covering up and downplaying the magnitude of the environmental disaster. Succumbing to the protests by the opposition, the government fired two officials of the water authority and the environmental authority for failure to perform their duties.

The ‘Together for the Oder River’ mobilization activists stated, “For weeks, the inhabitants of the Oder region have been confronted with the tragedy of the river. Today, the topic has disappeared from the front pages of newspapers; it is swept under the carpet. We may never know what really happened. We must not allow the Oder crisis to be forgotten; we must not allow ourselves to be forgotten because the only way to avoid similar tragedies in the future is to restore the river, as all scientific institutions confirm.”

The Save the Rivers Coalition has called for a radical change in the approach towards water management and the adoption of reforms for setting up effective flood and drought prevention mechanism, starting initiatives for the restoration of surface water, divestment from new proposals for cargo shipping in rivers including Oder, Vistula, Noteć, Bug, Narew, Warta and Brda, and implementing continuous initiatives for improving water quality in rivers and lakes.

Leftist political party Razem expressed support for the proposals and initiatives of the Save the Rivers Coalition. Razem stated, “The catastrophe in Oder river is not the first case of an ecological disaster in a Polish river. Two years ago the Barycz river was contaminated. It has not taught the rulers anything. Releasing chemicals into the river or throwing garbage into the forest is still normal.”

“Environmental poisoning is an act to the detriment of the health and lives of humans and animals, and should be prosecuted,” added Razem.