Dam on the border: does it affect nature?

Construction of the dam on the Polish-Belarusian border should be completed by the end of June; Polish environmental authorities emphasize that it has no adverse effects on the environment, including Natura 2000 areas, says Deputy Minister of Climate and Environment Małgorzata Golińska.

Deputy Minister of Climate and Environment and chief custodian of nature Małgorzata Golińska said that, according to information from the Border Guard, construction of the dam on the Polish-Belarusian border is progressing according to plan and will be completed by the end of June.

Construction began on January 25 and is expected to be completed by the end of June, as announced. The meetings of the State Border Security Preparation and Implementation Team, in which I participate, indicate that this date will be adhered to. In the beginning, a physical barrier will be created and then an electronic barrier, ie perimetry. Then we can talk about full border security “- she explained.

The deputy minister added that the existence of appropriate safeguards, in the current situation, is also in the interest of nature, especially wildlife, which, thanks to modern border security, will not be exposed to the constant presence of people in this area. “Protecting the Polish border is a priority, but we make sure that this is done with respect for nature” – Golińska argued.

The Border Guard recently announced that nearly 100 km of the dam is completed, out of the planned 187 km. The electronic barrier will be built on a stretch of 202 km and will cover all parts of the physical dam, as well as part of the boundary waters.

The dam under construction also passes through valuable natural areas, including the Białowieża Forest, which some environmental organizations and politicians are opposing. Golińska informed that the European Commission is also interested in the construction of the dam on the eastern border – especially the impact of the investment on Natura 2000 sites. Poland will soon provide an answer.

The deputy minister said that the European Commission has immediately indicated that it understands that each Member State is responsible for shaping the policy to protect its borders. “The Commission has stated that it is considering building dams as part of its wider efforts to secure Poland’s eastern border, which the Commission recognizes as a priority in light of the current situation. It should be remembered that the Polish-Belarusian border is the Union’s external border and that states have a particular obligation to protect it, including against illegal emigration. The letter does not mention any threats or sanctions against Poland. There is concern to minimize the potential negative impacts of the investment on the environment and a statement of cooperation is being prepared,” said Golińska.

The State Secretary explained that the dam runs through several Natura 2000 areas and borders several. These are: the Białowieża Primeval Forest, the areas of the Augustów Primeval Forest and its refuges, the Biebrza Valley and the Biebrza Refuge, the Knyszyn Primeval Forest and the Bug River Refuge, the Bug River Valley. The dam also runs through the Białowieża National Park.

In this last point, some media, after activists, are spreading information that the investment would destroy the strict reserve of GNP, which is not true. I would like to emphasize clearly that the Regional Director for Environmental Protection in Białystok, in consultation with the General Director and other environmental services, has analyzed the impact of the investment on all the Natura 2000 sites mentioned above. does not adversely affect these areas and habitats. As a precautionary measure, the impact for a larger area has also been analysed,’ she says.

Golińska recalled that – in accordance with the Law on the Protection of the State Border – a 15-meter strip of the border road along the border is separated, and in this strip the dam is built.

According to reports from contractors and environmental services, the investment will not go beyond this belt. What’s more – it is 6-8 m wide, so a reserve was kept “- she inquired.

The Secretary of State also assured that the investment is also monitored by the environmental authorities in a supernormal manner and that the recommendations issued are taken into account by the investor and contractors.

The representative of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage also referred to the issue of animal migration across the border, raised by environmental activists. She explained that the dam will have more than 20 passages for large mammals, such as bison, and more than 70 thousand. divers for small animals.

The passages for large animals are located on the identified migration routes. There will be no barrier at all on the river parts, so that animals can roam freely in these areas. The truth is that the problem is not our actions, but the situation in Belarus, ie the installation known as the system that has been in place there for many years. It is a very tight barrier of multi-series barbed wire fences that effectively blocks the migration of animals. She pointed to this problem, although not very categorically, in UNESCO reports in the context of the integrity of the transboundary site, the Białowieża Forest, which environmentalists are certainly familiar with “- she said.

Golińska noted that the system, which extends across the entire boundary line, is under tension. It also runs through rivers and wetlands, there are no passages for animals. In some sections there are also “stumbles”, on which – just above the ground – barbed wire is stretched – they pointed out.

It is a very airtight construction. The research of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences on the migration of bison in the following years clearly shows that, after reaching the Belarusian barrier, these animals retreated to the Polish side, because they could not go any further. Under specific circumstances, only a lynx or a wolf can get through the system, with the risk of injury. The rigidity of this structure is evidenced by the fact that during last year’s migration crisis, Belarusian services had to pick it up to allow the migrants to pass to the border,” she said.

Golińska pointed out that in practice in this situation we cannot talk about the migration of animals across the border for years. “The claim that it is the Polish barrier that will suddenly stop animal migration is a deliberate manipulation and repetition of the propaganda of the Belarusian regime,” she concluded.

PAP / if /

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