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Poland:expressway threatens wilderness

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Campaign update 23rd May 2003 - More than 6000 messages have been sent by concerned passport holders and WWF-Poland activists. In a letter in response to those who expressed their concern, the Polish Ministry of the Environment states that no decision should be taken on the routing of the controversial Via Baltica route until a full environmental assessment of all alternatives, complying with EU and Polish legal requirements has been made. Read the letter (translated from polish).

Good news, but more pressure is needed to ensure the Via Baltica routing through Bialystok is rejected. WWF Director General Claude Martin has sent a formal letter to the Polish Prime Minister expecting a clear answer on the process of selecting the Via Baltica route. We'll let you know when we have a response.

If you haven't yet taken action, please do so now! More on the campaign below...

The Polish Government plans to build an expressway through protected areas in north-east Poland, an area of outstanding natural value and great national and European significance.

The area is home to rare species which have become extinct in many areas of Western Europe, such as European bison, wolf, lynx, elk, spotted eagle, great snipe, aquatic warbler and black grouse.

The planned expressway would pass through Bialystok seriously impacting wildlife and creating pollution problems for the Biebrza National Park, Narew National Park, Knyszynska Forest Landscape Park, and Augustowska Forest with several nature reserves.

Help WWF call on the Polish Government to stop this potentially devastating development, and consider other options.

Alternatives exist

When approving the Bialystok route of the Via Baltica expressway, which is planned to connect Warsaw with Helsinki, the Polish Government did not carry out an environmental impact assessment. It also ignored numerous protests from NGOs (WWF, The Polish Society for the Protection of Birds OTOP, BirdLife Int., CEE Bankwatch Network..) and scientists, including the Board of the Biebrza National Park.

In addition, the manner in which the Via Baltica route was selected was not compliant with Polish and EU regulations on environmental impact assessment and public participation in decision making.

WWF is calling on the Polish Government to investigate the alternative to the currently favoured route, which would be using the existing road via Lomza. The Lomza route would not only spare the rich wildlife resources, but would also be 30 km shorter.

Protected nature at stake

The Bialystok option of Via Baltica expressway will cut through the Biebrza River Valley, the Narew River Valley, Augustowska Forest and Knyszynska Forest. These areas are legally protected and contain four bird habitats of international significance, that are to be included in the pan-European Natura 2000 network.

About 7500ha will be impacted by the development, which will cause soil, air and underground water pollution, noise pollution, increased human interference and increased animal mortality.

Protected species will be threatened in the whole region as their migration routes are disturbed or cut through. These include elk, wolf and lynx populations (with the latter two being held under strict protection in Poland), and rare bird species.

Take action now!

Please help urge the Polish Government to reconsider their decision to build a expressway through Bialstok in the outstanding Biebrza National Park. Send your email now to Mr Leszek Miller, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Poland, Mr Czeslaw Sleziak, Minister of Environment and Mr Marek Pol, Minister of Infrastructure.

Your message will be sent in polish, to view a translation in english click here.

Wolf (Canis lupus)
Credit: © WWF-Canon/Chris BAHR

More information

PAN Parks - support, preserve and enjoy Europe's wilderness
WWF Poland website

WWF's Forests programme

WWF's Freshwater programme