New report: Siarzewo barrage is a real threat for habitats and species

A new report that shows the devastating impact of E40 waterway on birds, natural habitats and water-dependent species in Poland was published on 2nd of October 2023.

The report was prepared at the request of Save Polesia partner OTOP (BirdLife Poland).

Despite being aware of the disastrous consequences of the E40 project, the Polish government plans to start its implementation soon by building Siarzewo barrage on the Vistula river – a key part of the waterway.

What does the report reveal?

The researchers have found that the E40 waterway would have very negative impacts (loss of at least 1% of the population) on breeding birds. It may affect 30 protected species, and for five species (Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Common Gull, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern) may affect half of the entire national population. All these species are on the Red List of Polish Birds.

Little Tern. Photo by Cezary Korkosz

As the numbers of these birds are already small and decreasing year by year, the loss of these most important national breeding grounds could mean their rapid extinction throughout Poland. These species may not be able to cope with the loss of further breeding habitats.

The construction of E40 waterway will cause irreversible changes in the habitats of protected animals and plants. At least 53 Natura 2000 areas will be negatively affected by E40, and within their boundaries 17 types of habitats, including rivers, peat bogs, wet meadows and oxbow lakes. Along the E40 waterway route in Poland, 29 species of animals (other than birds) that are particularly protected in Europe were found. Regulation of rivers within the planned investment means drying up protected habitats and devastation of their entire ecosystem.

Siarzewo barrage is a real ecological threat

The most advanced works relate to the construction of the Siarzewo barrage 30 km downstream from the existing Włocławek barrage. This is to be the second in a series of barrages forming the so-called Lower Vistula cascade.

The environmental decision for the construction of the Siarzewo barrage was issued in 2017. Appeals from non-governmental organizations against this decision have been pending for more than 5 and a half years. Despite this, the final procedures needed before construction can start, and the investor, Poland’s State Water Holding ‘Polish Waters’, is using public funds for these.

Originally, the cost of the Siarzewo barrage was estimated at approximately PLN 2 billion, to be funded from both the state budget and the Energa energy company. In 2023, the estimated cost of the investment increased to PLN 7.5 billion (1.6 bn euros) and is to be financed entirely from the state budget. The planned barrage has already been included in many planning documents, and the start of its construction poses a real ecological threat.

Polish people are against Siarzewo barrage

In August during the Vistula festival, many Polish activists gathered together to say no to the devastating E40 waterway project and building of Siarzewo dam.

The festival unites people of different opinions who feel connected to rivers. Each year, there are more and more voices against the E40 and Siarzewo barrage. This year, the activists had a beautiful performance against the barrage.

Vistula festival, August 2023. Photo by Jannis Beirschenk
Vistula festival, August 2023. Photo by Jannis Beirschenk

At the Festival, Save Polesia partner OTOP and WeMove Europe launched a photo action to spread the word about the issue. People take photos with the hashtag #WeStopE40 and tag Polish politicians who should be aware of it and might help to make a change.

Now, people from all over the world are joining the photo action. Now is the time to add your voice – the Polish elections are fast approaching and this is a rare opportunity to be heard by politicians and raise this topic at the highest level.

Polish politicians are interested to learn about E40 waterway threat

OTOP and WeMove Europe have approached several Polish politicians to deliver the petition launched in April and now signed by 135,000 people.

Two meetings took place last week – both Katarzyna Piekarska and Anita Sowińska dedicated a whole hour to learn more about the issue despite this very busy pre-election period. They declared their will to raise a debate on the problem in the Parliament after the election.

More meetings will happen before the elections on the 15th of October.

Further information

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*Top image shows the Vistula river. Photo credit: Marek Elas