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Road to ruin for Polish wildlife

Rarities under threat…

Proposed road construction in Poland threatens to destroy valuable wildlife and habitats protected under European law. The developments form part of the Helsinki to Warsaw international transport corridor called Via Baltica.

More than 150,000 people in Poland have already signed a petition against the road construction, but now campaigners are calling for more people to express their concern through an e-petition.

OTOP, the Polish partner of BirdLife International, WWF Poland and the CEE Bankwatch Network are asking the Polish government to stop work immediately on four projects and await the results of a Strategic Environmental Assessment.

We understand the need for upgrading the road system, but we object to these decisions being taken without proper environmental evaluation. There are some very precious areas at risk, and a full appraisal should identify a less damaging route for Via Baltica, said Malgorzata Znaniecka, OTOP’s Important Bird Area (IBA) Officer. The Polish government is getting a reputation for disregarding European law and its own natural heritage. We ask people everywhere to sign the e-petition and speak out in favour of Europe’s priceless green areas. The current road development proposals cut through Augustow and Knyszyn Primeval Forests, the Biebrza Marshes National Park and skirt Narew River National Park. All four are recognised as IBAs by BirdLife and are Special Protected Areas (SPA) under the Birds Directive and proposed as Sites of Community Interest (SCI) under the Habitats Directive—Europe’s strongest laws for the protection of natural environments.

The sites host a magnificent array of threatened wildlife, including wolf, lynx and Lesser-spotted and White-tailed Eagles Aquila pomarina and Haliaeetus albicilla. Biebrza Marshes is the most important breeding site in Europe for two globally-threatened bird species; Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola and Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga.Developing roadways through the centre of this pristine environment is nothing short of a crime, said Anna Roggenbuck, Polish National Coordinator of CEE Bankwatch Network. The Polish government has said it intends to begin work on the Augustow city bypass by the end of 2006, which will begin with the logging of primeval forest for access roads. Construction sites will cause habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as the obvious impacts of noise, water and air pollution, and the heightened risk of future road collisions with animals. If the Strategic Environmental Assessment results are soon going to show the best alternative route, why not wait?

The web petition is posted at: www.viabalticainfo.org/en/petition and the signatures will be presented to the Polish government on 16 November 2006.

4th July 2014