Polish government in hot water over massive fish kills – POLITICO


WARSAW — Thousands of dead fish have been found along the Oder River between Poland and Germany, with officials on both sides of the border warning of an ecological disaster.

This is becoming a political issue for Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, as the opposition accuses it of ignoring early signals of pollution on the river.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the incident “exceptionally outrageous”, adding: “Those responsible will be severely punished”.

Fishermen started noticing problems near Oława, about 400 kilometers from the sea, in late July. Polish Water, the government body in charge of inland waters, said at least 10 tonnes of dead fish had been found along the river, and even the Polish military had been called in to help remove them.

The cause is still unclear.

Polish Water said initial tests revealed toxic substances in the river, and authorities on Friday Posted a warning for people not to bathe in the Oder.

“We are most likely dealing with a crime where a substance was introduced into the water which caused the death of fish and other organisms. This is being verified at the moment,” Deputy Climate and Environment Minister Jacek Ozdoba told residents on Thursday.

German TV channel RBB said on Thursday that “high levels of mercury” had been found in water samples from the Oder.

“We do not have [the results] officially yet, but they actually point to massive mercury exposure as a factor,” Gregor Beyer, head of the environmental administration for the German district of Märkisch-Oderland, told RBB on Friday morning. Polish authorities have not confirmed the German information.

On Thursday, the environment ministry of the German state of Brandenburg accused Poland of keeping the problem under wraps.

“It must be said that the reporting chains between the Polish and German parties did not work in this case. A report from the Polish authorities is still pending. We have therefore contacted the Polish authorities and are seeking clarification immediately,” said Brandenburg’s Minister of the Environment. says Axel Vogel.

It’s not just Brandenburg that’s angry. Polish environmentalists accuse the government of trying to ignore the issue.

“The government is in chaos” said Małgorzata Tracz, MP for the Polish Greens, denouncing the lack of protective equipment for fishermen removing dead fish from the river and the mixed messages from the government; Deputy Infrastructure Minister Grzegorz Witkowski said on Thursday he would have no problem bathing in the river.

Witkowski was shouted at by angry locals asking, “What are you talking about? Where is the government? Have you gone on vacation?

Other opposition parties are also rebuking the government, and the issue could become a political liability ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.

“This is one of the biggest environmental scandals of recent years. We are all like those fish in the Oder,” Donald Tusk, leader of the Civic Platform, the largest opposition party, said during a meeting with voters on Friday.




Politico

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