Joint press release of the “Action Alliance Living Oder” I Bund für Umwelt- und Naturschutz (BUND), WWF Deutschland, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), Deutscher Naturschutzring (DNR), Rewilding Oder Delta (ROD), Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), EuroNatur, Heinz Sielmann Stiftung, Michael Succow Stiftung, Verein der Freunde des Deutsch-Polnischen Europa-Nationalparks Unteres Odertal
Berlin, 18 August 2022 – The environmental disaster in the Oder River has led to a mass mortality of fish and other animals in the river. So far, almost 140 tonnes of fish carcasses have been removed from the near-natural river in the heart of Central Europe. According to the environmental and nature conservation organisations united in the “Action Alliance Living Oder”, the full extent of the catastrophe can be assessed in a few weeks at the earliest. However, a comparison can already be made with the Sandoz disaster on the Rhine in 1986. Back then, after a fire in one of the chemical company’s storehouses, contaminated firefighting water caused mass fish mortality and serious damage to the whole ecosystem due to toxic chemicals.
“We demand from politicians and administrators on both sides of the Oder that the causes of this critical incident should be completely clarified, that any activities with negative impact such as the currently ongoing Oder chanellisation be stopped immediately and that a comprehensive remediation concept for the Oder be drawn up,” said DNR managing director Florian Schöne on behalf of the ten organisations affiliated in the alliance. Plans on both sides of the Oder to turn the river into a water highway for transport vessels must be shelved.
Yesterday, the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) published their interim results of the causal analysis. The researchers see indications that the mass death of fish and mussels may have been caused by an algal bloom with toxic secondary effects. At the same time, the experts make it very clear that this is not a natural phenomenon, but a man-made problem. There are currently reports in the Polish media of large saline discharges in the area of the industrial city of Głogów in the period from 29 July to 10 August 2022. In addition, anglers reported a die-off of fish above Wrocław as early as July. Local authorities state that the official laboratory results of the state authorities in Poland can no longer be found.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki promised last week to restore the Oder River to its original state. “If Morawiecki is serious about his statements, all harmful environmental impacts must be stopped immediately – this includes especially the current and planned expansion works on the river. A recovery of the aquatic flora and fauna through renaturation of the river must be given top priority, now” Schöne continues. From the alliance’s view, this requires the development of an action plan for the restoration of the Oder, accompanied by comprehensive funding. “The example of the Sandoz disaster on the Rhine River shows that a recovery of the Oder is possible“, Schöne explained, “but the assessment and examination of the environmental disaster must be ensured by an independent group of experts“. Furthermore, the functionality of monitoring systems on the Oder River must be ensured. The same goes for alarm systems of adjoining countries. This will guarantee a quicker response time in the future. The public has to be informed much earlier and in several languages about pollution of the Oder.
Background: The Oder is one of the last large, near-natural rivers in Europe. For about 500 kilometres before it empties into the Baltic Sea, the river flows without major obstacles, surrounded by intact and species-rich floodplains. The Polish and German governments have been planning measures on the Oder for years, allegedly to improve flood protection. However, an expert opinion commissioned by the Oder Alliance revealed that these plans will actually increase the flood risk. And what’s more: the Polish inland navigation strategy even envisages an expansion of the river into an international waterway. But these plans violate the EU environmental law as they are bound to destroy protected areas and natural landscapes along the river with their rich wildlife including many endanger species.
Ten German nature conservation and environmental organisations joined forces a few years ago in the “Action Alliance Living Oder” (Aktionsbündnis lebendige Oder) and cooperate with Polish and Czech nature conservation associations in the international coalition “Time for the Oder” (German: Zeit für die Oder). Their common goal is to preserve the natural state of the Oder and to promote sustainable use of the river landscape across borders.
Members of the “Aktionsbündnis lebendige Oder”: Bund für Umwelt- und Naturschutz (BUND), WWF Deutschland, Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), Deutscher Naturschutzring (DNR), Rewilding Oder Delta (ROD), Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), EuroNatur, Heinz Sielmann Stiftung, Michael Succow Stiftung, Verein der Freunde des Deutsch-Polnischen Europa-Nationalparks Unteres Odertal
- Joint website of the environmental associations in the Oder Alliance: saveoder.org
- Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) (2022): “Environmental catastrophe on the Oder: IGB researchers trace potentially toxic algae”, press release of 08.2022, online: https://www.igb-berlin.de/news/umweltkatastrophe-der-oder-igb-forschende-verfolgen-spur-potenziell-giftiger-algen
- World Bank Odra-Vistula Flood Management Project for Poland, online: https://projects.worldbank.org/en/projects-operations/project-detail/P147460?lang=en
- Directorate General for Waterways and Shipping (2021): “Stromregelungskonzeption für die Grenzoder: Strategische Umweltprüfung – Festlegung des Untersuchungsrahmens”, press release of 02.02.2021, online: https://www.gdws.wsv.bund.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/DE/20210202_Stromregelungskonzeption_Grenzoder_PM.html?nn=1215048
- RiffReporter: “Senckenberg boss: Massive renaturation is key to Oder recovery”, interview by Thomas Krumenacker with Klement Tockner, online: 16.08.2022, https://www.riffreporter.de/de/umwelt/fischsterben-oder-renaturierung-tockner
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Słona woda trafiła do Odry w Głogowie z Zakładu Hydrotechnicznego KGHM: “Wody Polskie nie poprosiły o wstrzymanie zrzutu”, [Salty water from KGHM’s hydrotechnical plant entered the Odra river near Głogów: “Wody Polskie did not ask to stop the discharge”], 08.2022, online: https://wroclaw.wyborcza.pl/wroclaw/7,35771,28801874,slona-woda-trafila-do-odry-w-glogowie-z-zakladu-hydrotechnicznego.html?disableRedirects=true#S.MT-K.C-B.2-L.3.maly
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Wędkarze chcieli oddać do badania ryby wyłowione pod koniec lipca. Państwowe laboratorium odmówiło, 17.08.2022, online: https://wyborcza.pl/7,177851,28797832,wedkarze-chcieli-oddac-ryby-do-badania-juz-pod-koniec-lipca.html?disableRedirects=true#S.MT-K.C-B.1-L.1.duzy
Florian Schöne, DNR Managing Director, Tel.: 030-678177599, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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