Rivers´regulation in Poland: open letter to the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki

Moratorium on rivers’ development is required in the implementation of any project financed by public money.

The reason for calling for a radical intervention by the Polish Prime Minister concerns the ill-adapted water management. The current state of the water management and the challenges of the national wealth: the natural river network in Poland, is a serious problem. Supporting the need to renegotiate the Water Act, quick and radical measures are necessary to prevent further devastation of rivers.

Previous editions of the Infrastructure and Environment Programmes contributed to deteriorate the status of Poland’s water bodies. The entire river network suffered from extensive interventions involving deepening and damming watercourse channels. This has exacerbated the problem of lowering the groundwater table throughout the country and caused extensive damage to natural river channels and bank revetments of regulated rivers. When formulating plans and programs for rivers or related to water beyond rivers, it is essential to consider the values and state of the environment formulated by the scientific community, NGOs, or the European Commission.

The information of the then Minister of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation for the Parliament for 2018-2019 proves that water management is to serve water use and not to preserve publicly available national water resources in river systems and in groundwater reservoirs.  In recent years the units responsible for water management in Poland neglected rivers’ condition. 

Thus, between 2016 and 2018, the number of rivers in poor condition increased from 90% to 99.4%, which proves that currently the condition of rivers in Poland is the worst in the Baltic Sea basin and in Europe. Moreover, according to the provisions of the National Surface Water Restoration Programme, more than 90% of surface water bodies require restoration measures.

Therefore, we call for:

  • Water management in Poland should be performed by an institution responsible for the protection of the environment, natural resources, climate and forestry to implement modern descriptions of natural rivers (by care and shaping in the corridor of the development of natural channels). It is important to equip this institution with appropriate funds for the protection and maintenance of rivers, but also with the possibility of constituting an opinion on the methods of interference by all stakeholders in the water resources of river valleys.
  • Introduce a general moratorium on the development, deepening and damming rivers in Poland. Ban use of obsolete catalogues and guidelines drawn up before 1980, until the introduction of a regulation to define modern rules for river shaping with understanding the river morphology of channels and its environmental requirements.
  • Arranged a variable river basin management in Poland to restore the natural ecosystem services. Use natural retention potential to counteract the effects of climate change (in the context of drought and floods, while recovering the near-natural self-purification of basin systems to reduce the adverse effects of emissions from basin areas).

In order to spend public money properly and not risk losing funds of the National Reconstruction Plan and the Partnership Agreement, radical steps are needed. That will consist in a ban (moratorium) on regulation, partitioning and deepening of rivers from their source to their mouths, for all investors, up to the effective implementation of modern reference descriptions of natural rivers and standards of conduct for river restoration during their maintenance.

Consequently, we call on the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland to take action in Polish water management.

Read the full Moratorium in Polish.

Read the full Moratorium in English.