Towards a sustainable vision for river ecosystems and riverine landscapes in Poland

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Having reviewed the plans of the Polish government to regulate and modify major rivers of Poland for navigation purposes, Wetlands International-European Association wishes to express its concern about the sustainability of these plans. Taking into account scientific evidence and social experience from all over the world, it has been observed that river damming, channelization and disconnection from riverine landscapes may have negative effects on biodiversity, as well as human safety and future economies. The increasing frequency of flood events is proving that hard infrastructure defences alone are not able to protect people.

Many rivers of Poland still retain their natural landscape and hydromorphological processes, that allow them to host high biodiversity in water and adjacent land. From the European perspective, these systems are now extremely valuable and often protected by the Natura 2000 network. They could however easily be lost when rivers are regulated. The implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive and the Flood Risk Management Directive provide opportunities to maintain and restore riverine wetlands, including floodplains.

We are aware that the Polish government plans to develop the network of international inland waterways. According to governmental documents, by the year 2030 the length of such waterways in Poland should be at the level of 1 186,1 km, while in 2014 it was at the level of 214 km. It’s worth mentioning that for international waterways there is a need to provide c. 3 m of channel depth throughout the whole year, while the width of fairway should range between 40 and 50 meters.

On October 27th, 2016, Wetlands International – European Association, together with its Polish partner, Centrum Ochrony Mokradeł, will invite representatives of Polish conservation organisations, as well as those active for the promotion of sustainable river tourism and recreation, for a discussion on the future of Polish rivers. We do hope that by bringing an international perspective to the on-going Polish debate on rivers, we can facilitate dialogue between various stakeholders contributing to more sustainable and multifunctional riverine systems.

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