The plan, which involved constructing dykes around the Middle Oder wetland in Poland, would have had a catastrophic impact on biodiversity and negatively impacted the work of Rewilding Europe and its partners. The rest of Poland’s inland waterways programme will hopefully now be abandoned.
Rewilding Europe is delighted to announce that a plan to build dykes around the huge Miedzyodrze (Middle Oder) wetland in Poland has been abandoned. As part of a larger inland waterways programme, such massive disruption of natural hydrological processes would have lead to the widespread destruction of habitats and ecosystems, including areas of the Oder Delta where Rewilding Europe and partners have been working hard to protect and restore wild nature, encourage wildlife comeback and develop nature-based economies.
The Miedzyodrze plan was shelved following negative reports from German engineering company Gerstgraser, the Polish planning office Sweco and the World Bank. The previous Polish government signed a loan deal with the latter to finance the inland waterways programme, with additional financing provided by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Council of Europe Development Bank and European Union.
“The abandonment of this plan is the culmination of three years of hard work by a collaboration of Polish and German NGOs,” says Jonathan Rauhut, a member of the Rewilding Oder Delta team and representative of the Polish-German NGO alliance opposed to the inland waterways programme under the umbrella of the German League for Nature and Environment (DNR) and the Polish Coalition Save the Rivers (KRR). “It’s a fantastic victory for local people and wild nature.”
While the words “flood management” are the supposed objective of the World Bank-funded inland waterways programme, it is clear that the measures it entails, which would also be hugely damaging from an environmental perspective, are more about creating navigable waterways than flood protection. Many experts have expressed the opinion that this project is more likely to increase, rather than decrease, the risk of flooding.
It has already been proven that large dams and large-scale river hydroengineering are massively damaging to aquatic habitat, contributing substantially to the destruction of fisheries, the extinction of species (particularly marshland and riverine species), and the overall loss of ecosystem services on which the human economy depends. Poland’s proposed inland waterways programme is no different.
“We are all hoping that the Polish and German authorities now see sense and change their entire programme concerning regulation of the River Oder,” says Rauhut. “We will continue our efforts to save the river until this happens.”