Urgent call to halt implementation of Odra Revitalisation Act

Construction will have devastating consequences for the Odra and surrounding areas. 51 projects aim to engineer the rivers, create artificial reservoirs, and disrupt natural river balance. Field report shows the potential impact on biodiversity and local communities.

Jeziorsko Reservoir

Due to the construction of the Jeziorsko dam, large areas of riparian forests were flooded.

© Loren Kamrat

The Odra Revitalisation Act was proposed in May 2023 in response to the environmental disaster that struck the Odra River in July 2022, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of fish due to toxic golden algae bloom caused by industrial pollution. The Act, ratified by the Polish President at the end of August 2023, claims to address the issues plaguing the Odra and its basin, but a recent report sheds light on the potentially devastating and compounding consequences it may instead bring to the region.

Fridays For Future Poland conducted a two-week field investigation to analyse the Act's impact on the Odra and surrounding areas, supported by EuroNatur. The Act's 51 proposed projects aim to engineer the rivers, create artificial reservoirs, and disrupt natural river balance. Such activities may exacerbate drought issues, impact biodiversity, and come at a high cost. The findings raise serious concerns about the Act's viability and potential harm to the environment, local communities, and businesses.

Key findings from the report conclude that proposed projects within the Act:

  • Threaten Odra's riparian forests: The Act proposes the construction of multiple instream barriers, which will alter the river's flow, endangering valuable riparian ecosystems. Bird species like the white-throated flycatcher and middle-spotted woodpecker could disappear, while vital plant populations may vanish in standing water conditions.
  • Increase flood risk: Nature-based solutions for flood prevention have proven effective without compromising the river's natural landscape. The Act's proposed dam constructions may exacerbate the flooding risk and disrupt the region's natural floodplain ecosystem.
  • Adversely affect tourism: The Odra's unique ecosystems and healthy state have fueled tourism growth. Construction of the proposed barriers could lead to a loss of income from water tourism, endangering local businesses and governments' investments in enhancing tourism.
  • Lack economic viability: The Act promotes inland waterway transport on the Odra, yet low water levels often make barge traffic impossible. Local residents and businesses express doubts about the economic benefits of such projects.

“The projects described in the Odra Revitalisation Act are an insult to the Odra itself and Polish nature in general. This Act will worsen the problems that the Odra is dealing due to previous destructive policies,” says Marta Wróblewska, FFF Poland activist.

“Polish courts have already asked that certain projects in the Odra be suspended, however the government refuses to do and instead passed this new Act to further build more destructive projects on the Odra.” says Bruna Campos, Senior Policy Manager at EuroNatur. “This report further reinforces our view that the European Commission should intervene in the Odra.” EuroNatur, together with BUND and Eko-Unia, have already filed a complaint to the European Commission regarding the ongoing illegal construction in a specific section of the Odra.

"The report by FFF Poland impressively shows the negative consequences of only a few of the 51 measures planned within the framework of the Odra river rehabilitation law. The implementation as a whole would be a knockout for the Odra river. At the same time, there is a concrete vision for the future for a people-friendly and near-natural Oder", says Annette Spangenberg, Head of Nature Conservation at EuroNatur.

In light of these findings, FFF Poland urges authorities to reconsider the Odra Revitalisation Act and ahead of the Polish elections, demand that political parties commit to protecting and restoring the Odra river. Solutions should be explored to address the root cause of Odra's pollution, including a more focused approach to curb industrial discharges of saline wastewater and prioritise environmental sustainability and local well-being.



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