2007-02-16 Agnieszka Bielawska
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Brusells tells Warsaw to rethink expressway

Activists with banner saying "Save the Rospuda valley"Activists with banner saying "Save the Rospuda valley"
The European Commission has warned Poland again against building an expressway running through the unique marshland nature reserve of Rospuda Valley in the north-west of the country. Agnieszka Bielawska reports.

The commission was greatly surprised to hear that despite earlier warnings Poland continues with plans to build the road .

The controversial investment runs through the region of the Rospuda valley which is currently a Special Protection Area of European Nature ecological network and is on top of a shadow list of areas which according to scientists and ecological organizations should be designated as Special Area of Conservation.

In a statement from the commission's spokeswoman, Barbara Helfferich, Brussels has demanded that Poland should stop the investment until its possible negative effects on the area are cleared out.

Rospuda river between the Sumowo and Okragle lakes, nearby Kotowina villageRospuda river between the Sumowo and Okragle lakes, nearby Kotowina village
"Until we are certain the construction cannot begin under any circumstances. Poland is an EU member and is supposed to abide by EU rules and environmental regulations are extremely important for us."

The planned expressway and the construction work will cause environmental damage in that wilderness area.

The noise, pollution and construction would damage breeding grounds of various bird species, some of which are protected, as well as some endangered plants and the unique mire complex.

Ecologists and conservationists continue to protest against the construction projects.

The construction of the by pass is strongly supported by the people of Augustow who have to live side by side with the heavy vehicles and trucks continuously passing their through town.

A solution to the problem could be an alternative route for the by pass road suggested by Poland's Greens and not taken into account by the authorities.

The Polish Greens, however, have a strong backing from the European Commission says Beata Plomecka, Polish Radio correspondent in Brussels.

Marshlands in the Rospuda ValleyMarshlands in the Rospuda Valley
"The Commission started the investigations just after the case was presented by the Polish G. The EC said that the construction works in Rospuda are against the EU laws and Brussels waits for the explanation from the Polish government. The deadline in February 15th and until that time the EC expects that all works will be suspended."

Ignoring Brussels warnings Poland's environment minister Jan Szyszko decided to start works on the by pass road.

What steps will the EC take if Poland persists to put a deaf ear to the commissions demands? Beata Plomecka explains:

"Then the EC continues the infringement procedures which it started in December. Brussels demands explanations from Warsaw and of course in a couple of months or next year the case can simply end at the European Tribunal in Brussels."

The Polish Greens and the European Commission are not the only ones who have the interest of the Rospuda valley at heart.

The campaign to save the area is joined by many ecological organisations the world over, though their protests seem to leave no effect on Polish authorities.

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