Monday, February 12, 2007

Via Baltica: humans versus the environment

Stop Press!!! the beatroot agrees with Polish prime minister...shock!!!...well, there is a first time for everything!!!...

Euro-green protestors get upset about a planned bypass around the Polish town of Augustow.

Greens are campaigning about a planned bypass around the northeastern town which will cut through the wetland area of Rospuda Valley. As usual, Greens turn to the EU for help. Environmental Data Interactive reports:

In December 2006 the European Commission launched legal procedures against the Polish government for consenting to a series of eight road developments along the Via Baltica route which are likely to damage important and protected sites.

The road developments as they are currently proposed run through the Augustow and Knyszyn primeval forests and the Biebrza Marshes National Park.

These areas contain a broad array of threatened wildlife including wolf, lynx and white-tailed eagles.

The road - part of the E67, or Via Baltica - will form a major link from Helsinki to Prague and greatly increase trade in the area.

I was talking to Kasia today, who is from Augustow. She says that most people in the town are for the bypass. Currently around one and a half million trucks rumble through the town every year, causing traffic accidents and casualties, damage and congestion. Ironically, Augustow is known as a health resort – the pollution caused by the traffic is damaging that reputation and the tourism that it attracts.

The EU has many designated protected sites in Poland, mostly in the east of country – an area of economic underdevelopment. Of course, nobody would casually want to damage areas of beauty. But sometimes humans, and economic development, have to come first.

I think this is one of those times. Poland badly needs better road transport, which at the moment is the most under constructed in Europe.

We are getting to the stage where an abstract idea such as to what constitutes what ‘natural’ is is taking precedence over human development. What Poland needs more than anything is economic growth. The Eurocrats in Brusesels, and Green NGOs from all over Europe (mostly city dwellers who have a romantic, yet detached idea of what ‘natural is) are trying to slow down economic progress here.

I think its time they were told that birds and wetlands come second; humans come first.


Martin said...


The Beatroot has turned Tory!

Brad Zimmerman said...

It's so difficult to balance nature (which I'm quite fond of) with the needs of people (I'm one of many).

Additionally, I don't feel that I've spent enough time in Poland to know how to fully address the roads problem. For sure *something* needs to be done and there are so many examples of fine road systems that it shouldn't be too difficult for Poland to figure out how to address some of the problems.

That all being said, plowing through a nature reserve when there are plenty of spoiled areas that could be used seems a bit lazy to me. Additionally, if a major road is going through a nature area ...what or whom is this road serving? If it's a major nature area then there shouldn't be any people nearby and ...aren't roads about getting people from point A to point B where both points contain large numbers of people?

In this case I believe the "road through nature" thing is more about money than anything else. Poland already owns that land so no need to buy it from some soon to be displaced villager. And of course since people don't live in the nature area bitching either (except from those goddamned hippie commies).

michael farris said...

I think Beat's setting up a false choice. Plow through a unique ecosystem or damage people.

I haven't kept up on the whole Rospuda dispute in detail, but one acquaintance told me the original plan was a bypass that didn't spoil the Rospuda valley but which had put off time and time again for unclear reasons.

I had the impression that the whole plan to plough through Rospuda wasn't serious, but meant to get the other, more environmentally senstive road built. But, as I say, I don't know all the ins and outs.

Anonymous said...

Of course the choice is obvious: either we have roads or we can not move!

Not even two decades ago Poland had perhaps the finest rail network in the world (apart from Switzerland obviously). Now much of it stands unused and what is used is hugely underused. But it hasn't gone yet; there is still time to bring it back. But once people start building over old rail-lines then the railway network is fucked. I'd love to see the Polish rail network saved but I very much doubt I will.

beatroot said...

The Beatroot has turned Tory!

martin, you are tickling me – stop it! If you know your British political history then you will know that the original conservationists were Torys. Conservationism and conservativism always have gone hand in hand. Look at the UK’s chief Greens tree huggers: – Prince Charles, Zak Goldsmith, Johnathan Porrit and other public school boys.

Aristocracy and a romanticized view of the land have always been synonymous. They hated the Whigs, who represented industrial progress (alongside the industrial proletariat, who they also feared, of course.)

the Left, when I was part of it – many moons ago now – was about social progress. Conservatives of course opposed it. But now that socialism has gone (and it ain’t coming back) the liberal left have joined the conservatives in their fear of social progress and their contempt for humanity.

Count me out – I ain’t no Tory, I ain’t no environmentalist.

Martin said...

Nah, Beatroot, I don't buy it.

I think you'll be arguing for concrering over the kiddies' play parks and withdrawing funding for the mothers' & toddlers' groups next...

BTW, Chuck, Zac and Johnnie share one characteristic more than any other - they all love trees more than they love people.

No conservatives, they...

beatroot said...

I think we should be withdrawing fusning for kiddies play parks and concreting over mothers and babies!

Anonymous said...

As Michael Farris says, this is a false choice and is widely reported as such in the media (Gazeta Wyborcza being an exception): it is not either the by-pass or road deaths in Augustów (and note the play on emotions too: children are dying on our roads).

A road could easily be built that would by-pass both the town and the Rospuda valley. It would cost a bit more and - horrors - possibly add a few minutes to the travel time but it would attract EU funding. The government has decided to fund the Rospuda desecration entirely out of Polish taxpayers' pockets just so that the EU cannot be seen to refuse funding (which it would undoubtedly do).

The net result is that the road as planned will do more environmental harm and cost more, since vandalism does not qualify for structural funds. So why is the government pressing ahead?

There are some cynics who say that land which will have to be compulsorily purchased belongs to... and here modesty draws a veil. I honestly don't know if a Lex Luthor style land grab has already been done but as the Poles say: "jeśli nie wiadomo o co chodzi, chodzi o pieniądze" (if you don't know what it's all about, it's all about money)

Anonymous said...

I don't know exactly how to respond to this but I figured I pass it on for some or any feedback:

Dear Friends,

As you may remember we had several successes in 2004-2006 to defend Poland from GMO. All polish provinces declared themselves as GMO-free and the Polish government passed an act which prohibited the use of GMO seeds and plants in agriculture.
But as we expected, the pro-GMO lobby didn't give up in Poland. They have made very intensive pro-GMO propaganda on all levels: for academics (students and scientists), for farmers, politicians and consumers. They are paying for pro-GMO articles, organizing many meetings and trainings where they distribute free materials -- of course all saying how good GMO is.
Also just now the Polish government is trying to pass a correction to the GMO act which would allow the use of GMO seeds in so called 'designated GMO areas'.
To counteract these pro-GMO activities we need to use more effective tools to educate Polish society about the threats of GMO. To this end we decided to translate the anti-GMO film 'Life running out of control' and make a Polish version. We did this on a voluntary basis, but now we need to make thousands of copies of this film and to distribute it around Poland.
You can send your donation:
- direct to ICPPC's account
37 1160 2202 0000 0000 23829934, SWIFT code: BIGBPLPWXXX, account owner:
Fundacja ICPPC, 34-146
- you can send us money by, but first send us an e-mail with the amount you wish to support our campaign to

With kind regards,
Jadwiga Lopata
ICPPC - International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside,
34-146 Stryszow 156, Poland tel./fax +48 33 8797114

michael farris said...

I just got a link to a site protesting the current plan and showing alternatives that wouldn't result in wetland destruction (and note how the proposed road through Rospuda seems to GO OUT OF ITS WAY TO GO THROUGH THE VALLEY!!!!!!

Where I grew up (SW Florida) when they were planning an interstate, they made a detour similar to this (though not thru any special environmental areas) and the original location of an exit was changed from an exit closer to town to one several miles further away.
By strange coincidence both changes materially benefitted the same local bigshot, one of the wealthiest men in the area.

beatroot said...

Jadwiga Lapota sais:
As you may remember we had several successes in 2004-2006 to defend Poland from GMO.

Well, indeed – they certainly got this present government in line. I have pointed out before how a fear of scientific progress – as GM crops are – unites the conservative with the ‘liberal’...GM crops would be of massive benefit in the developing and developed world – it would free farmers from having to use nasty chemical (both organic and non-organic) fertilizers, would increase yield, so freeing up land for use for something else…the benifits are many to humanity.

But no – despite no evidence that GM would be harmful to health, the modern luddites are not having it. This is the knee –jerk, conservative response of a culture that fears progress.

Anonymous said...

My brother in law is a forest ranger near Augustow. He has fits any time Rospuda is brought up. From what I remember of his ranting (with all due respect) much of the land that would have allowed the road to take a more direct route (and not have to be elevated on a semi-submersible pontoon array over marshes - which, if it's built, will be the first of its kind) was bought up by speculators. They may have had insider knowledge or they just worked out where the road would go by looking at a map. Either way, they are in a good position to milk the EU-subsidised project. So the options are: drive trucks through the centre of Augustow (like hundreds of other Polish towns), demolish natural habitats (plenty of precedent for this - look where the Warsaw northwest bypass is headed) or - hey, there's a first time for everything - line the pockets of the 'ingenious' local entrepreneurs.

Anonymous said...

I have always asked him to tell me the truth, so he let me have it and said my lungs...evergreens