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Experts’ critical assessment of the government and World Bank’s project concerning Flood Protection in Basins of the Oder and Vistula

The actions planned by the Polish government and the World Bank within the Flood Protection project for the Basins of the Oder and Vistula won’t reduce the risks, but they may increase flood hazards for Poles.

“Save the Rivers” Coalition blows whistle: The Polish government is implementing a project, funded with a huge loan from the World Bank, while this project will not improve flood security, it may rather cause immense environmental damage. It’s a waste of money, needed so much in other industries – says Ewa Leś, coordinator of “Save the Rivers” Coalition.

– Opinions developed by Polish and German experts show that measures concerning the Lower Oder are not optimally planned and may be ineffective. We will spend our borrowed money to increase the risk of floods – claims Radosław Gawlik, President of EKO-UNIA Ecological Association, activist of the Coalition.

According to reports, actions by the government and the World Bank – contrary to the official declarations – won’t improve flood safety on the Lower Oder, especially in the case of Szczecin. The reports and results will be presented in detail at the Polish-German conference “Environment-friendly flood protection on the Oder” on 20 June 2018 in Słubice, organised by German Association for Protection of the Nature (Deutscher Naturschutzring (DNR) e.V.) and co-organised by “Save the Rivers” Coalition.

One of the raports1 analyses modernisation of Międzyodrze as a controlled polder for flood protection – the project which had been controversial from the beginning. It has been shown that the actual usable surface of the polder and its capacity are significantly smaller than described by the data quoted by the government’s experts in the application to the World Bank, and they will account only to 5% of the initially declared value.

Artur Furdyna, ichtyologist and activist of the Association of Enthusiasts of Ina and Gowienica Rivers working at the Oder’s estuary and expert of the Coalition, commented: – According to the documents the planned modernisation of Międzyodrze cannot have significant impact on the peak wave in floods and the planned polder will not contribute to improvement of flood protection in Szczecin. Meanwhile, Międzyodrze may lose its current, very important function as a natural flow polder. Moreover, the World Bank and government’s project does not take into account the impact of modernisation of the fairway Szczecin-Świnoujście. The fairway will be actually deepened and broadened, allowing for in-flow of waters raised by storms on the Baltic Sea to Szczecin Lagoon, thus increasing the water table on the Oder. Considering the constant rise of the Baltic Sea’s table, this will have a significant impact on flood safety in Szczecin and all the surroundings of Szczecin Lagoon – adds Artur Furdyna.

The World Bank supports the concept of flood protection on the borderline Oder, while ngos and experts call it “an alleged concept2. It provides for river engineering by restoration and expansion of spurs along the entire section to improve working conditions for icebreakers. Results described in the reports concerning this section of the Oder show that the concept does not take into account specific conditions of the river’s flow, compromising rationality of the solutions.

Consequently, apparent deepening of the river bed will not increase the depth, because of the elevation of natural unevenness of the sandy floor, so the parameters supposed to improve icebreakers’ operations won’t be changed. At the same time, increased mobility of sediment on the floor will cause significant deterioration of the river’s environmental condition – Artur Furdyna explains.

– This is a confirmation of fears expressed 2 years ago by ngos, a large group of scientists and the Green Party. Necessity to improve operating conditions for icebreakers or modernisation of the well-functioning Międzyodrze as grounds to spend over one and a half billion PLN is a pretext to spend public funds on construction of a waterway, and not actually on flood protection – argues Radosław Gawlik.

– In Wrocław itself, quite many anti-flood measures have been taken, but we still can’t feel safe, as evidenced, for instance, by the 2010 flood which caused significant damage at Kozanów. This won’t change until the government introduces general solutions aimed to restoration of flooding space to rivers, in a well-considered and comprehensive approach to rivers and their catchment areas, like it is done in other European Union states according to the Framework Water Directive which is based on state-of-the-art knowledge on river systemsconfirms Paweł Pomian of the Green Party and Ecological Association EKO-UNIA.

To implement this project of highly controversial objectives, worth almost 4.8 billion PLN, the Polish government signed a loan agreement with the World Bank in 2015. The borrowed amount for measures to be taken on the Oder itself is 1.8 billion PLN3.

Dr Joanna Kubicka, collaborator of EKO-UNIA and economist of Business University in Wroclaw: – We perceive markedly better and cheaper alternative solutions to improve flood safety. Based on expert analyses, we highlight that purely technical solutions have been chosen, which are not optimal and which will probably bring more damage and risks than advantage. And speaking of safety, we refer to people and their property, but also to ecosystems. A damage to those may be very costly for us.

“Save the Rivers” Coalition acts for systemic protection of natural values and natural retention, foe large-scale renaturalisation of watercourses, protection and restoration of ecological continuity, adaptation of both navigation and economic development plans to rivers. Its objectives are described in the common Declaration. Currently the Coalition includes 63 members: ngos, individuals, media and scholars.

www.ratujmyrzeki.pl koalicja@ratujmyrzeki.org.pl

1 “Effectiveness of the planned Międzyodrze detention basin and the concept of watercourse regulation in the context of flood protection improvement at the Lower Oder”, May 2018, Gerstgraser Ingenieurbüro für Renaturierung”

3 Wrocław Office of the Supreme Audit Office, LWR.410.002.01.2017 P/17/104, Post-Audit Presentation

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