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Landmark decision for Rospuda Wetland

…road in difficulty as Polish court cancels environmental consent

BirdLife International and the CEE Bankwatch Network welcome the decision of the Regional Administrative Court in Warsaw to cancel the environmental consent for the entire Augustow Bypass in north-east Poland. The decision places the development of the road in serious doubt, as it should not be implemented without the due environmental clearance.

This section of the 'Via Baltica' expressway has been routed by the Polish Road Agency - the investor - through the Natura 2000 site ‘Augustow Forest’ which includes the unique Rospuda Valley. The case was referred by the European Commission to the European Court of Justice in March 2007 for infringing the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive.

The Polish Road Agency and responsible authorities have claimed that the project was prepared in line with Polish nature conservation legislation. The decision of the Regional Administrative Court proved for the third time that they are wrong. In April 2007 the same court cancelled the Minister for Environment's interim order for the investment. On December 3 another Ministry decision on the investment, issued by the General Nature Conservation Officer, was also cancelled.Polish environmental NGOs and the Polish Ombudsman challenged these earlier decisions of the previous Polish government. They also regularly pointed out both the existence of an alternative route for the bypass outside the Natura 2000 site and the fact that it was not considered by Polish authorities.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, Policy coordinator for CEE Bankwatch Network, added: "This is fantastic news for Natura 2000 protection but it also means that the Polish authorities need to start urgently reconsidering possible alternative routes for the bypass to solve the long-standing traffic problems affecting the town of Augustow. We look forward to the roundtable for Rospuda that has just been announced by Poland's new environment minister and we are open for constructive solutions."

The announcement of the roundtable appeared in an article in Gazeta Wyborcza earlier in the week. The new environment minister, Maciej Nowicki, wants to hold "a roundtable for Rospuda" that would convene in December and be comprised of experts, NGOs and local authorities to discuss possible solutions for the Augustow bypass and for Rospuda, as Nowicki believes that Poland will ultimately lose the case at the European Court of Justice.

Contact: Malgorzata Gorska, the Polish Society for the Protection of the Birds (OTOP/BirdLife Poland), mailto:malgorzata.gorska@otop.org.pl

4th July 2014