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Vistula decision a landmark for Poland

24-Feb-2000

The following newsflash is based on a press release from WWF. Wetlands International strongly supports the activities of WWF to stop the planned construction of a dam in the Vistula river. The Vistul...
The following newsflash is based on a press release from WWF. Wetlands International strongly supports the activities of WWF to stop the planned construction of a dam in the Vistula river. The Vistula is one of the few main rivers in central Europe which has kept its natural state. The river therefore possesses significant biodiversity values and large areas are meeting the criteria of being designated under the Ramsar Convention. WWF and Wetlands International , have welcomed the Polish Cabinet's move yesterday to insist that an independent technical expert group examines all concerns and alternatives, before it will make a final decision on whether to build a new $250 million dam on the Vistula River. "This decision could be a very important turning point for Poland," said Ireneusz Chojnacki, WWF's Programme Coordinator for Poland, in response to the announcement by the Polish Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz on Polish National Radio last night. "It could make Poland the front-runner amongst EU accession countries in a new approach to environmental management," he added. "This is especially significant in the face of the European Commission's ongoing concerns over Poland's readiness for early accession due to their poor environmental record. We are delighted." At a press conference in Warsaw on Monday, WWF and a coalition of Polish NGOs (IUCN Poland, Wedkarski Swiat, Klub Gaja, Ecological Forum WU, and OTOP/BirdLife International) presented a critique of the Ministry of Environment's proposal. The critique exposed the flaws in the proposal, which justified the building of a new dam to urgently safeguard the existing dam and reduce flooding. The NGO group also explained that the Nieszawa dam construction would not be technically or economically viable, and that it would involve unacceptable costs to the environment and local people. The group also pointed out that the "closed door" decision-making process was inconsistent with international standards, and strongly advocated a full investigation into alternative options to the Nieszawa dam, reminding the Polish Government of its international commitments. These issues were reiterated last week in letters to the Polish Prime Minister by Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and by Jim McCuaig, Director of Wetlands International - Africa, Europe, Middle East.

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