Polish musician crosses the whole country in a wooden boat

On the 1st of May, Polish musician and activist Michał Zygmunt finished his 1,300 km expedition in a traditional wooden boat. The main patron of the boat trip across Poland was OTOP – BirdLife Poland, one of the Save Polesia partners.

The cruise is a promotion of rivers, conscious learning and discovering their values and character, says Michał. It is also a promotion of traditional wooden boats, mindful rest and engaged river tourism.

Concerns for Polish rivers

Michał is worried about the future of Polish rivers. Last summer, massive fish kills were seen on the Oder river, with an ecological impact along 500 km of the river. The aim of the boat trip was to symbolically transfer the wildness from the Bug and the middle Vistula to the Oder river. But even the Bug and Vistula are not safe due to the threat of the E40 waterway.

The activist spread the word about this danger during his 1.5 month journey. Posting his thoughts about value of the rivers in his blog, documenting spring nature soundscapes and industrial sounds for a future CD, and giving concerts.

Michał started his journey in mid-March from the Bug, one of the least regulated large rivers in Europe. Originally, this river was proposed as the route for E40 waterway connecting the Baltic Sea with the Black Sea. Later, other options were explored, as the Bug route would lead to severe negative impacts to protected biodiversity areas.

However, it is early to say that the Bug and other rivers are safe. The original plan was changed to another one – digging a 160 km long canal between Dęblin and Terespol. The consequences of this “alternative” way would also be devastating. The water to fill the canal would probably be taken from the Bug, thousands of hectares of peatlands and agricultural land would be drained, and the Wieprz and Tyśmienica rivers in the Lublin region as well as the Vistula from the Baltic Sea to Dęblin would be damaged.

Cascade of damaging barrages starting at Siarzewo

At least 5 barrages are to be built on the Vistula between Włocławek and Warsaw, and even further, up to Dęblin. The river would be turned into a series of dam reservoirs within the so-called Lower Vistula cascades. Natural islands and sandy banks providing nesting and feeding places for birds would be irretrievably destroyed.

The most advanced investment plans relate to Siarzewo barrage. This would directly damage several Natura 2000 sites, as well as key biodiversity habitats. Another migration barrier for fish and sediments (river material) will be created. All this to a very high price – which Polish taxpayers are expected to pay. The cost of the investment is currently estimated at PLN 7.5 billion, although two years ago it was PLN 4.5 billion.

A government consultation on the “Comprehensive development of the Lower Vistula” has just closed. In fact, this appeared to be a programme to justify the construction of Siarzewo barrage – despite the fact that this investment does not have a final environmental consent and is contrary to EU legal requirements on nature protection, water protection and public participation in environmental decision-making.

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*Top image shows the Vistula river. Photo credit: Tomasz Pezold. Next photo is from Michał Zygmunt’s Facebook account. Photo credit: Ewa Drewniak.