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Campaign "Vistula Now"

The national Polish campaign "Teraz Wisla" ("Vistula Now")


Travelling for many years around Poland, it became clear that the amazing river Vistula needs some thought and care. Due to its natural and cultural considerations the Vistula is unique, not only in Poland but in Europe. It features priceless species of fauna and flora. Its landscape values are unparalleled.

Threats to the chance of a possible future in harmony with nature were not challenged in an organised way.

The Vistula, known as the Queen of Polish rivers, is over one thousand kilometres long, its basin covers over half of the territory of Poland.

Every kilometre of this river needs some friendly attention. This is especially important now, when one observes the plans to regulate the Vistula. This regulation includes the most important project, the Lower Vistula Cascade, which aims to construct seven more dams along the Lower Vistula. In the opinion of many Polish and foreign institutions, experts and environmental organisations, this project will destroy natural and cultural uniqueness of the Vistula river and valley.

In 1993, we started to prepare the national Polish campaign "Teraz Wisla" which was initiated on "Earth Day" in Warsaw, on the 22nd of April 1994. The main motto of this "Earth Day" in Warsaw was the motto of our campaign: VISTULA NOW. The goals of the "Teraz Wisla" campaign are the improvement of water quality, its rational use, protection of biological diversity and cultural values by means of ecological education and stimulating local communities to activity.

The Queen of Polish rivers possesses a huge economic and social potential, which should be a basis for any discussions about the future of this river.

Vistula is one of Europe's largest rivers and one which remains closest to its natural state. Vistula forms the ecological "backbone" of Poland allowing the dispersal of many species. In addition, Vistula is one of Europe's most important ecological corridors. It provides a very important link between Scandinavia and Africa.

Its close to natural river dynamics, sandy islands, floodplain forests and old river beds provide rare and unique habitats on an European scale for many species. These habitats include nesting and breeding grounds for many rare birds, among them migratory species. Salmon breed on the Drwęca tributary of the lower Vistula and the river is home to a variety of fish species. Commercial fishery is still undertaken.

For many active environmental and social circles in our country the national campaign "Teraz Wisla" has become an example of a professional activity on the level of co-operation between local communities, politicians, social activists and mass media.

Long term objectives of the campaign:
  1. To create a network of information exchange, between co-operating organisations, institutions and interested parties.
  2. To inspire and carry out local campaigns congruent with the goals of "Teraz Wisla".
  3. To enforce protection (also legal) of the most interesting sites of natural and cultural heritage in the Vistula Valley.
  4. To support pro-environmental Vistula basin development projects.
  5. To create a foundation for the protection of the Vistula, the Vistula Valley and drainage area.

The campaign has brought the issue of the Vistula and the proposed new dams on the Vistula to the level of national debate and has delayed the building of a proposed new dam at Nieszawa over a number of years.

We organised a special conference in Parliament called "Vistula, the Way to the 21st Century". Politicians, scientists, institutions and government officials took part in it as well as a representative from the team working on the successful revival project for the river Loire in France. There was full media coverage.

Our exhibition "How to Save a River" has been shown all over Poland and was the first exhibition of its kind to be shown in the Polish parliament and in the Ministry of Environment.

Every year, we organise "Vistula Day" bringing to life the mix of the river, its natural environments and culture. We organise this with many different groups around Poland and many different happenings take place. We formed the coalition called "Water is the Spring of Life".

Between the middle and lower Vistula there is one large dam located at Wloclawek. Built over 30 years ago and as part of a cascade of dams, this dam is causing many problems.
Most recently, "Vistula Day" has taken the form of protest action and awareness raising about issues relating to the existing dam at Wloclawek, the proposed dam at Nieszawa and general dam issues, due to the ever impending government decision of whether or not to support the building of a new dam on the Lower Vistula at Nieszawa.
In the last month of the year 2000 and in the first days of 2001, our government and parliament decided to formally support the plan to build a new dam on the Lower Vistula at Nieszawa.

What happens to the Vistula is an European wide issue. Our work aims to bring the threats  and opportunities of the Vistula to global attention. We organised the meeting "First International Meeting of Non-Governmental Organisations: Dams, Water and Life"  Bielsko-Biala, which was held in our centre, attended by representatives from groups from all over the world who work with the issues of destructive dams.

The focus of this meeting was co-operation between NGOs in Europe, the northern and southern hemispheres and with the World Commission on Dams (WCD). An European Hearing of Non-Governmental Organisations for the WCD was held in Bratislava at the beginning of the year 2000 where we presented a case study about the Vistula. Following the completion of the Final Report by the WCD, together with the World Commission Fund (WWF), we organised a meeting in Polish parliament for a WCD representative to present the findings of the final report. Working with others in Poland who are concerned with water and its management we compiled a Vision for Water for Poland and represented Polish non-governmental organisations at the World Water Forum in the Hague in March 2000.

A special BBC World News programme about the Vistula helped to spread our message and our activity has been used in a film to lobby European politicians in Brussels.

Why we say NO to the proposed new dam at Nieszawa
  1. A new dam will not solve the problems which exist but will only put off the solution, whilst creating problems of its own.

  2. The new dam is estimated at a cost of over 400 million USD, the first 15% of which is to be funded by Polish public funds. Scientific expertise shows that a new dam will itself be suffering from problems of erosion after a number of years and could itself become a new and expensive problem.
  3. No full environmental impact assessment or economic analysis has been carried out.
  4. The decision making process has not been open and transparent.
  5. The building of new dams on the Vistula will prevent the possibility of pro-ecological, pro-social solutions for the development of the Vistula and its valley from taking place.
  6. The building of new dams on the Vistula will have negative consequences for one of Europe's most important ecological corridors. In 1995, at the Ministerial Conference in Sophia it was decided that one of the most important ecological corridors in Central Europe is the valley of the Vistula river.
  7. The building of a new dam on the Lower Vistula will break international conventions to which Poland has signed including the Ramsar and Berne Declarations.

The Vistula, “queen of Polish rivers”

The Vistula, “queen of Polish rivers”, is the last big river in Europe whose large sections still keep its natural character. From its sources in the Silesian Beskid range where the Biała (White) and Czarna (Black) Wisełka's join at a locality named Wisła, all the way down to the Gulf of Gdańsk, the Vistula constitutes a rich and diversified ecological corridor. It is 1047 km long, and its drainage basin of 198,000 sq. kms covers 53.9 % of Poland's area. No wonder, the Vistula is an important national history symbol.
A vast expanse of the Vistula has Europe's last remaining landscape typical of a natural, unregulated river. The forked bed, numerous islets, projecting cliffs, sandbars and backwaters, as well as riparian forests create unique and beautiful harmony, unseen on those rivers which have been altered by regulation.
While reconstruction of the lower Vistula has severely affected long distance fish migrations, the river is still an important migration route. As indicated in the 1995 IUCN Poland's paper Vistula as an Ecological Corridor. State – Functioning – Threats, 44 species of fish have been found in the Vistula river system during the last decade, including salmon, common sturgeon, vimba, sea trout, river trout, knife, Danube salmon, eel, pike, pike perch, sheatfish, ruff, river lamprey, nase, barbel, and bitterling.
During an environment ministerial conference in Sofia, 1997, the Vistula Valley was recognized as an ecological corridor vital to the preservation of European biodiversity, linking the North (the Baltic Sea) and South of Europe (the Carpathians), as well as the East (via the Bug - Wisła corridor) and the West (via Noteć – Warta).
Due to its natural values, particularly biodiversity, the protection of the middle course of the Vistula Valley has also been recognized as a priority in terms of the Ramsar Convention.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) states that "Poland's rivers with intact or slightly altered floodplains are important refuge areas and ecological corridors. ... The Vistula (between Zawichost and Płock) and the lower Oder command special attention. The Vistula is among the last rivers in Europe which have not been fully regulated”.
A 1991 motion of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) Conservation Committee states: "Among the many valuable valley regions, the middle course of the Vistula between Zawichost and Płock stands out as a unique remaining instance of natural big river landscape, exceptional in Central Europe. Along with the Biebrza Marshlands and Białowieża Primeval Forest, it is a natural area of all-European importance. ... Its riparian alluvial forests are the richest forest biota on the continent, analogous to some rainforests of the tropical zone... About 62% of all European inland bird species find refuge in the alluvial forests".
The Vistula offers at least 6 types of habitats named in the Annex I to the EU Habitat Directive, including 6210 – xerothermic swards, and 91EO – willow alluvial forests, poplar alluvial forests, alder alluvial forests, and ash alluvial forests, considered of priority importance.
Many areas within the Vistula Valley or its impact zone are parts of the Nature 2000 network. They were designated on the basis of both Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive) and Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds (Birds Directive).
The inter-levee basin of the Vistula is an important migration route for numerous mammal species. This includes amphibious mammals but also many terrestrial hoofed or predatory mammals. The Vistula inter-levee basin is a crucial part of spring and autumn migrations of many bird species, in particular fishhawk, lesser black-backed gull, Caspian tern, and black tern. The Vistula is also an important living place for grey heron, kingfisher, sandmartin, white wagtail, common sandpiper, greenshank, broad-billed sandpipers. Overall, ca. 300 bird species can be found, including 180 which breed here. To some of them, the unregulated condition of the river is important. Two thirds of Poland's bird species are born or live here, including many rare and endangered ones, whose survival in Poland and Europe depends on the preservation of breeding and feeding grounds in the middle Vistula valley. Many species of which there are no more than 60 couples in Poland find their last and most essential refuge in riverine valleys. This includes stone curlew, Mediterranean gull, little gull, and whiskered tern.
Apart from being a natural rarity, the Vistula has a vital place in the cultural history of Poland, a symbol cementing the Poles' national unity.
Towns and cities on the Vistula represent a wide range of epochs and architecture monuments dating back to the origin of the Polish statehood. The most interesting ones certainly include Sandomierz, Kazimierz Dolny, Płock, Chełmno, Grudziądz, and Gdańsk. Cities such as Warsaw, Cracow and Toruń have been enlisted in the World Heritage of the UNESCO Convention on the preservation of the world cultural and natural heritage. This means that the conservation of the Vistula is directly related to the preservation and care of Poland's national culture and tradition.
The Vistula with its natural condition presents a unique opportunity for the sustainable development of local communities which can and should benefit from the river cultural and natural assets.

Włocławek Dam Pro's and Con's
The Włocławek dam was constructed during the Communist rule, when Poland's approach to the management, future  and role of rivers was largely based on the Soviet hydroengineering school, nicknamed the “river diversion school”. Built in 1962 – 1970, the Włocławek dam was one of the bigger projects of the “river taming era” in Poland. The dam has been operational on the lower Vistula up to now. After the 37 years of its operation, it is worthwhile looking closely at the benefits it was supposed to bring about and whether the  projected benefits were identified correctly.
Five main benefits of the Włocławek dam were meant to be:
       1. development of water-consuming industries in Płock – Włocławek area;
       2. development of water transport on this section of the river;
       3. helping with water supply for regional agriculture;
       4. expansion of freshwater fishing industry;
       5. tourism and recreation in the reservoir.
Existing documentation and reports by independent experts lead to conclusion that the projections did not come true at all since:
          - no industrial development in the reservoir area has taken place;
          - there was no expansion of water transport on this river course;
          - no irrigation system using Włocławek dam waters was established;
          - the fishing industry was actually negatively affected;
          - examples of tourism base development in the reservoir area are marginal.
Moreover, the Włocławek dam was supposed to reduce the flooding risk. In reality, far from reducing the flood risk, it is presently increasing the risk due to insufficient dam capacity and reduced flow speed resulting in possible downstream slush-ice jams.
The actual development of the area around the reservoir, and rise in employment related to the dam and reservoir cannot be counted as positive outcomes of their existence, either. The lifting of water in Włocławek area has in no way improved the region economic activity.
On the other hand, definitely negative impacts include:
        - arrested debris transport and downstream bed erosion;
        - negative impact on migratory fish populations;
        - negative impact on other elements of natural environment.
As demonstrated in a number of studies, the Włocławek dam construction resulted in river bed erosion caused by interrupted continuity of debris transport.
In 1968, as a result of the Włocławek dam construction the migratory population of Vistulan vimba became practically extinct and the trout catch was dramatically diminished. At the same time, the damming of the river prevents fish from migrating towards the headwaters which may lead to total extinction of winter Vistulan salmon trout population.
The building of the dam has also resulted in the virtual withdrawal of many valuable and rare bird species which require protection according to BirdLife International criteria or are named in the Polish Red Data Book of Animals such as stone curlew, ringed plover, common sandpiper, little tern, common tern, goosander.
Sandbanks and silt areas have irretrievably disappeared, most of willow and poplar alluvial forests, as well as precious plant communities of xerothermic swards, photo- and thermophilous ecotones, thermophilous forests and brushwoods have been destructed.
In summary, the Włocławek dam has failed the expectations, and the balance of social, ecological and economic losses and benefits proves negative. The only real benefit of the dam is electricity generation. The profits, however, do not find their way to the local community.
Proponents of new dams on the Lower Vistula often use the Włocławek dam poor technical condition and possible building disaster as an argument to promote a proposed Nieszawa dam among the local community and media.
Official documents from 2004, 2005 and 2006 such as Assessment of the technical and safety conditions of hydroengineering structures of the Włocławek dam or Verification of measurement and control equipment readings on the Włocławek dam concerning studies of the Włocławek dam technical condition do not seem to confirm this information while pointing out some technical irregularities.
According to the official reports and expert studies reviewed by Klub Gaja, the technical condition of the Włocławek dam is not the greatest risk factor. This view seems to be confirmed by the 2006 decision of the Włocławek Prosecutor's Office to dicontinue investigation of the possible risk of a hydroengineering disaster at the Włocławek dam resulting from failure to build a dam at Nieszawa pointing out that „no imminent danger of disaster is involved”. Enormous yearly expenditures on the dam safety improvement do have some effect, yet the measures taken are often of temporary nature.

Pro's and Con's of Nieszawa Dam Construction
While the Polish Government has (at least formally) dropped the plans to build a cascade of dams, it has supported the construction of a new dam downstream from Włocławek. The letter of the Director of the Ministry of Environment Water Resources Department to Klub Gaja from December 19, 2001 reads: "…the Polish goverment is not planning to construct further dams between Warsaw and Gdańsk. A supporting dam at Nieszawa is a separate matter and the Polish government has repeatedly presented its position that the dam shall be designed so as not to necessitate, through advancing erosion, the building of subsequent dams.”
However, the construction of the Nieszawa dam will not solve the key problems of the Włocławek dam ponding. What problems is it supposed to solve then? Its main purpose is to ensure effective long-term security and correct functioning of the Włocławek dam by lifting and stabilizing the minimum level of downstream water in accordance with the project appraisal.
Other mentioned benefits of the Nieszawa dam construction include (much like at Włocławek years ago):
           - reducing bed erosion downstream from the Włocławek dam;
           - electricity generation;
           - economic revival of the Kujawy region;
           - touristic development of the new reservoir area.
The Nieszawa dam would reduce bed erosion downstream from Włocławek but only in the new ponding  area. On the other hand, it seems very likely that due to its substratum being highly prone to washout the erosion downstream from Nieszawa would be considerably deeper and more widespread than it is downstream from Włocławek at present. The reason the Vistula bed down the stream erodes is its dragged debris being completely arrested and deposited in the Włocławek reservoir (ca. 1.7 million cu. ms per year). Thus, instead of a lasting solution, we actually face shifting the problem a few dozen kilometers down the stream. If we take the total of the proposed Nieszawa ponding expanse and add the ca. 57 kms of the Włocławek dam ponding, we find that more than one hundred kilometers of the Vistula course is going to be altered. It is important to note that the ponding leads to changes in humidity conditions in adjacent areas and permanent flooding of valley bottom area; the damming would result in the disruption of the continuity of the river system, changed water flow rate, and altered physico-chemical properties of the water.
Upon a thorough analysis of benefits, it must be pointed out inambiguously that the main financial benefit of the Nieszawa dam construction will be the profit from the electricity generation.
Studies projecting the development of tourism around the proposed reservoir and expected economic revival are also overly optimistic. In general, there would be little difference between the proposed Nieszawa and the existing Włocławek reservoirs. As demonstrated, the Włocławek dam has brought about no significant benefit for the touristic development or economic revival. 
Moreover, the Nieszawa dam would have an additional negative impact on the natural environment, including migratory fish population.
Moreover, the Nieszawa dam construction will likely entail withdrawal of many precious and rare bird species. Conversion of this section of the free-flowing river into a flow-through reservoir would lead, among other effects, to disappearance of sandbars and sandy islands along with existing alluvial forests. These changes would probably result in the withdrawal of the following birds: common sandpiper, ringed plover, kingfisher, garganey, corn crake, goosander, mew gull.
Moreover, Klub Gaja believes that since May 1, 2004, that is since the day Poland joined the European Union, the plans to build a dam at Nieszawa on the Vistula have been in contradiction with such European laws as Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive) and  Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds (Birds Directive), Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (ammended by Directives 97/11/EC i 2003/35/EC) – so called EIA Directive – and Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment – the ‘strategic environmental assessment Directive’  – or, finally, Directive 2000/60/EC establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy, so called Water Framework Directive (WFD).
Important to note, the stretch of the Vistula intended to be lifted as a result of the Nieszawa dam construction is protected as a Special Bird Protection Area PLB 04003 "Lower Vistula Valley”. The proposed ponding section also includes a potential Special Habitat Protection Area PLH 040004 "Włocławek Vistula Valley”, and three more Special Protection Areas - Nieszawa, Dybowo and Solec Vistula Valley's are within the area of its impact. None of the four SPA's mentioned above has been formally submitted by the Polish Government to the European Commission. Nevertheless, since all four meet all the scientific criteria of the Habitat Directive, until the final decision the Commission is treating them as if they were protected.
In the first quarter of 2006 the Polish Government applied for the funding of the construction of the Nieszawa dam from EU funds. In early 2007, € 515 mln from the Operational Program “Infrastructure and Environment” were assigned by the Polish Government to finance the construction of the dam at Nieszawa. In the end, the building of the Nieszawa dam landed in the reserve projects list. In July 2007 the National Water Management Board made public the winning tender for the project perversely named “Environmental Safety of the Włocławek Dam” as part of the Operational Program “Infrastructure and Environment”. The winning company was Hydroprojekt Warszawa. Klub Gaja fears that committing the study to a company who has long been interested in building a dam at Nieszawa may affect the reliability and impartiality of the study. 
At the same time, it should be emphasized that from the perspective of society the most important problem to solve should be the security of the Włocławek dam, that is slush-ice jams, insufficient capacity of the dam and its reduced stability. The solution should be focused on solving the security problem in a way which is most favourable for economic, social and environmental reasons. Analysis of various options of the Włocławek dam security problem solution leads to the conclusion that the proposed option of constructing a dam at Nieszawa is preferable only from the perspective of the energy sector. In Klub Gaja opinion, the cheapest and the best balanced against economic, social and environmental considerations is the option of decommissioning the Włocławek dam and gradual transformation of the existing reservoir back into a free flowing river, maintaining the existing road crossing of the Vistula.

Who Is Gaining and Who Is Losing or Will Lose on Włocławek and How Much?

“Thus the Sejm of the Republic of Poland deems it necessary to safeguard the existing dam in Włocławek against the building disaster threatening it through the realization of this project and granting it a status of a multiannual program, established by a law. Assuming the commercial nature of project financing, the use of public funds shall be limited to the necessary minimum assigned to environmental conservation, and their spending will be distributed over the whole construction period, which is defined as about 4 years.”
This is a passage from the Sejm of the Republic of Poland motion from December 22, 2000 on the realization pf the project Nieszawa – Ciechocinek Dam.
Almost 7 years have elapsed since. The issue of the Włocławek dam stability has not been definitely solved. The Nieszawa dam neither has been built nor is likely to be built in the nearest future – despite actions taken by  goverment agencies. Throughout all these years the Polish taxpayer has been paying on one hand for studies, plans, documentation etc. Concerning the planned dam construction at Nieszawa and on the other hand for all sorts of repair and modernization works on the Włocławek dam related to safety improvement, maintenance and operation.
All the government documents and decisions concerning plans for the Nieszawa dam clearly stated that the project may only be realized for private investor monies, due to limited capabilities of the national budget. The Minister of Environment writes in his March 30, 2000 letter to Klub Gaja, “The problem of economic viability should be left to the prospective investor who will declare investing their own capital into the construction. In this situation costs to the State Budget would be minimal. Moreover, the proposed method of financing guarantees the project completion within the projected 4 to 5 years deadline, which is the shortest in comparison to alternative solutions which would have to be financed by the State Budget.”
7 years have gone by. Far from fulfilling the declarations, no investor seems to have invested any money into the project. RP Government decisions consistently stressed that the project was to be realized by engaging significant private capital resources. The participation of the Treasury, or public monies, was supposed to be limited to minimum. Unfortunately, the following years have only seen more studies and more spending of public, not private money. The State Budget assigned 1,000,000 złoty in 2002 and 220,000,000 złoty in 2003 for measures concerning the security of the Włocławek dam. The situation is ambiguous since, on one hand, official communiques and motions of the Parliament and Government indicated that the Nieszawa dam construction should proceed by using private investors' money with public funding phased out, yet on the other hand, subsequent central budgets have been assigning additional monies for that purpose.
The Consortium for the Construction of the Lower Vistula 2nd Step Dam and Consortium for the Construction of the Nieszawa – Ciechocinek Dam were created in 2000 with an aim to build a new dam between Nieszawa and Ciechocinek on a commercial basis. The telling fact, in Klubu Gaja opinion, is that Hydroprojekt Warszawa (member of one of the Consortia) was committed in 1999 – 2005 to prepare a number of studies concerning the Włocławek dam and the planned Nieszawa dam, worth a total of 6,792,238 złoty. Klub Gaja believes it is very controversial for the government to commit profitable studies concerning a possible dam to a company which is directly interested in building the dam and member of the very consortium which declares the aim of implementing the project by their own means.
Notably, the Nieszawa dam construction cost seems to be rising significantly from year to year. The Pre-Feasibility Study of the Development of the Lower Vistula elaborated by Hydroprojekt Warszawa in 1999 for l,651,238 złoty, estimates the cost of the Nieszawie dam construction at 1,071 million zł. Similarly, the Council of Ministers communique from August, 2000 reads: “It is assumed that the project will be commercial in nature. The cost estimate for the Nieszawa dam is between 1,035 and 1,071 million zł. However, a minimum participation of the budget in the form of a multiyear program is still essential. The planned construction duration time is 5 years.”  5 years on, a document called Construction of the Nieszawa – Ciechocinek dam. Conceptual and spacial design with multi-optional feasibility study: Part II, also developed by Hydroprojekt, the cost of building the Nieszawa dam and reservoir is estimated at 1,935,067,532 zł. The study itself cost the Polish taxpayer 4,185,000 złoty. Recently, in June, 2007 the RP Prime Minister announced that “The project cost is 550 million euros, and with the current prizes it will probably come to 1 billion euros” or nearly 3.8 billion złoty.
It should be pointed out that the Włocławek dam owner is the Treasury, while the operation of the hydropower station mounted on it belongs to the energy sector. It should also be noted that, in spite of the Analysis of maintenance cost sharing for the Włocławek dam prepared for the administrator of this river course indicating that the energy sector ought to incur 83,19 % of the dam and reservoir maintenance cost, by virtue of the water supply and sewage effluent disposal consent effective until December 2011 the energy sector is not even covering half of the costs.
The decision-making on the future of the Vistula and the way it is to be developed should involve the account of cost and benefit sharing: who incurs costs in what amounts, and who reaps how much benefit.

Włocławek Dam Alternative

Since the beginning of the debate on how to solve the problem of the Włocławek dam stability, environmental non-governmental organizations came forth with their postulates and proposals of alternatives to the building of a new dam.
A close look at the studies developed creates an impression that the concept of Nieszawa dam construction has been promoted as the only viable solution from the very start. Alternative options constitute a minute percentage of the huge volumes of documents concerning the solving of the Włocławek dam problem.
NGO's including Klub Gaja have introduced alternative options, the most favourable solution in our opinion.
A very detailed multicriterial option analysis was included in the Study of comprehensive solution of the problems with the Włocławek dam and reservoir. A projection of socio-economical and environmental outcomes published by WWF Poland in 2001, adopting 19 detailed criteria divided in two groups.
The study concludes with the following overall results of the multicriterial options evaluation:
         “1. Option 0 (maintaining the status quo) 13,5 points and 9 negatives 
          2. Option I (construction of the Nieszawa dam) 11,9 points and 8 negatives
          3. Option II (modernization of the Włocławek dam) 28,8 points and 2 positives
          4. Option III (decommissioning of the Włocławek dam) 41,8 points and 12 positives
Option III has resulted as best, according to both socio-ekonomic and environmental criteria. The poor, third rating of Option I based on ecomomic and social factors reflects its many weaknesses.”
Thorough analysis of all costs that have been or have yet to be incurred, the account of benefits and losses as well as their respective distribution lead to conclusion that the Study... published by WWF Poland identifies the best solution to the Włocławek dam problem. The study reads:
“Option III – decommissioning the Włocławek dam and gradual transformation of the existing reservoir into a free flowing river, while maintaining the existing road crossing of the Vistula. (…)
With regard to the long-lasting nature and effectiveness of the adopted solution in eliminating all risks and problems entailed by the Włocławek dam construction, decommissioning the dam combined with gradual reduction of the ponding level and liquidation of the reservoir are the best solution.
Option III – The dismantling of the earth dam as part of the dam decommissioning will enable free passage of debris, and the liquidation of the reservoir will remove the main cause of slush ice jams. The option is the only one to solve definitely the problem of toxic waste and biogenous pollutants accumulating in the reservoir by reintegrating them into the natural process of matter circulation. Also, it is the only one that guarantees to restore the Vistula great natural value.”
It is right to add that the choice of the study-indicated option will result in the national budget, that means us, saving millions of złoty's worth of public money that have been spent every year for the operation and maintenance of the Włocławek dam and reservoir, and for plans to build the dam at Nieszawa.

The coalition to save the Ostre valley In Lipowa.
In the last few months we were faced with a serious threat, which would affect one of the most beautiful valleys in the Beskid Śląski region- the most western part of the Polish Carpathian mountains. Beskid Śląski was designated as a NATURA 2000 region. It is a region still inhabited by wolves, lynx, and other rare species named in the Habitat Directive of the European Union.
Lipowa, which lies in the Beskid Śląski region, has had serious problems with a lack of drinking water for some years. The needs of this area are 14 l/s. There is a good source of water in the area, which produces 70 l/s, but it is already being used by the Żywiec brewery- one of the largest producers of beer in Poland. 62% of Żywiec shares belong to the beer giant Heineken.
In its TV commercial, the Żywiec brewery, talks of its crystal clear water used for beer production, sourced from the heart of the mountains. The source is in the Ostre valley and Żywiec has permission to use this water, but this has caused conflict with local inhabitants. The growing conflicts, as well as problems during dry years, have been a catalyst for the Żywiec brewery to search for alternative solutions, which would provide them with an alternative source of water. Finally the brewery came to an agreement with the town council of Lipowa to build a water reservoir in the heart of the Ostre valley, on the Leśnianka stream. The reservoir would provide water both for the brewery and the inhabitants of Lipowa.

The dam will not be built
Thanks to a decision by the Minister of the Environment, Tadeusz Podgajnik, one of the most beautiful valleys of Beskid Śląski was saved.
The Minister for the Environment did not give his consent to build the dam Lipowa- Ostre. When explaining his decision, the Minister called on the negative opinions of Klub Gaja and the Society for Nature “Wilk” on the dam building project. Negative opinions on the project had been voiced earlier, by the Director of the Regional Directive of the “National Forests” in Katowice and the Regional Board for Nature Conservation. Additional consultations carried out in the Ministry of the environment, brought negative opinions from the Department for Nature Conservation, the Department of Water Resources as well as from the Earth Science department in the University of Silesia.

With regards,

Jacek Bożek

The Second International Meeting "Dams, Water and Life" 14 March 2005, Bielsko-Biała, Poland

II International Seminar “Dams, Water, Life” took place on 14th March 2005 in Bielsko-Biała. The main theme was discussion about the future of Polish rivers and river valleys in the context of the Report of the World Commission on Dams  and the investments accompanying the financial means from the European Investment Bank.

"Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making - The Report of the World Commission on Dams" - the past, present and future (summary)


The World Commission on Dams was an independent body, appointed with the initiative of the World Bank and The International Union for Conservation of Nature-as an answer to the controversy and conflict surrounding big dams.
The Commission’s aim was to carry out a review of the effectiveness of great dams and judge the alternatives. Since May 1998 the Commission has analyzed about 1000 great dams in 79 countries, studying their effect on economic growth, human populations, water resources, nature as well as their financial effectiveness. The result of this work, in which several hundred experts from around the world took part, is the report Dams and Development: a new framework for decision making, made available in 2000.
The WCD report draws together conclusions from other countries searching for solutions which would meet peoples’ needs regarding water and energy, without causing damage to the environment. The report shows that “dams have had an important input to human progress and their benefits are significant’; however in too many cases they have had “an unacceptable and often unnecessary cost, especially in terms of society and the environment”. The report also shows how to move from conflict and controversy surrounding dams to building dialogue and understanding.
Why is the WCD report important, specifically why is it important for Poland, and at this moment in time?
We are standing on the verge of great changes to every aspect of our life. This is linked to our entrance into the European Union, and the consequences resulting from this. Our laws regarding water, its management and the conservation of biodiversity are conflicting. This does not facilitate dialogue between the different users of water resources, especially as there is also much discrepancy in the National Plan of Development 2007-2013.


„Włocławek- Nieszawa – Poland – an example of misunderstanding of the problem” (summary)

RADOSLAW GAWLIK, Eko-Unia association in Wroclaw

I. History :

1. Polish Peoples’ Republic – dams on the lower Vistula

2. Republic of Poland – A strategy for central Vistula :
Three variants:
a. Full regulation – dam building
b. Building of a dam in Ciechocinek (Nieszawa)
c. No interference
3. Proposal of variant IV – removal of the dam in Wloclawek

II. Proposals for building and financing the dam in Nieszawa

1. As a venture of private investors
2. As a public investment (from Polish and EU taxpayers).


„EU water regulation and good practice as a possibility of co-operation between different sectors.” (summary)

TADEUSZ LITEWKA, Director of the regional board of water management in Krakow

Poland’s entrance into the European Union presented hydro technicians with additional tasks defined in the Water Directive Framework supplementing the current Water Rights Act. This report discusses the laws currently in force in all actions in Polish water corridors linked to regulating water flow. Using the example of prevailing practice in the region of the upper Vistula, I will put forward a technical solution which still requires verification or change.

As a result of many years of experience in water flow administration, the Regional Board of Water Management in Krakow has found the possibility of formulating these changes whilst taking into account current conditions resulting from EU policy. These proposals, which could form a basis for formulating rules of good conduct in managing rivers and mountain streams, will be presented in this report.


„How to save a river- examples of intervention” (summary)

In 2001 the Polish government signed an agreement with the European Commission for a loan of 25 mln Euros, as part of the programme Phare “Renewal 2001”. These resources, which must be spent by the end of 2005, were assigned for two types of project: rebuilding of damaged infrastructure and action which would reduce the threat of flooding in the future. Furthermore, in 2001, the Polish government also signed an agreement with the European Investment Bank for a loan of 250 mln euros, for rebuilding and renewal of flood-damaged infrastructure. However the total cost of the project will be 385 mln Euros, the remaining 135 mln Euros will be covered by the budget of our country.

The constraint to spend the obtained funds by the end of 2005 often has the result that the current and planned regulations of rivers deprive us of the most valuable nature resources in our country. The actions of the Board of Land Improvement and water technology and the Regional water management boards, in many cases interfere with protected areas and those submitted to the European ecological network Nature 2000, which has resulted in damage to ecological corridors of importance, as well as areas of protected and rare species of animals and plants.

Exactly one year ago in Silesia as well as in the rest of the country, groups of ecologists,  anglers, social workers, ornithologists, biologists and scientists raised alarm at the actions being taken on polish rivers resulting from the loan. Klub Gaja collected a list of 132 rivers from co-working groups, where actions of the administrators have raised public alarm. Through the competition “Guardian Organizations: social responsibility in public life”, Klub Gaja received a grant from the Stefan Batory Foundation for the realization of the project “how to save a river”. As part of this project we have begun a series of actions, which I will present here.


“The «Loire Vivante» campaign - changing the Loire river management. “ (summary)

ROBERTO A. EPPLE, European River Network, France

In the 1980s, France decided to tame the Loire, the "last wild river» in Western Europe :
four dams and dykes were planned on the Loire basin, mostly for water storage - for
intensive agriculture and dilution of nuclear pollution purposes - and for flood control,
which would have worsened urbanization in the floodplains. The most important dam, called Serre de la Fare, located on the upper Loire Valley, would have drowned 23 km of pristine gorges, a wonderful asset for local sustainable development. The fight against it became the symbol for the whole campaign for a «living Loire».

The main strength of the SOS Loire Vivante network, supported by WWF and the largest French NGOs, was to fight against the dam program as a whole. The campaign, through large demonstrations, scientific research and conferences, lawsuits and occupation of the Serre de la Fare dam site, led to the broadest media coverage of all environmental topics in France and to internationalization of the issue. The campaign also forwarded alternatives to damming, thus proposing a novel approach to river management, notably in the field of flood control. It also focused on river restoration and biodiversity protection. Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), threatened to extinction on the Loire basin, was chosen as a symbol for this campaign, with the organization of an international conference.

In 1991, the lawsuit against the Serre de la Fare State-approval was won by the environmentalists; later in the year, the left-wing government announced Serre de la Fare was abandoned. In 1992, the Loire Vivante network was awarded the Goldman Prize (the Nobel Prize for environment protectors). Finally, on January 4th, 1994, the new right-wing government confirmed that the damming program was abandoned and launched a new Loire management program, «Plan Loire Grandeur Nature», which went even further along the Loire Vivante views.


“Environmental education not only for the young” (summary)

SALLY NAYLOR, Gaia Club, United Kingdom

The European Water Framework Directive came into being following the increasing demand by citizens and environmental organisations for cleaner rivers, lakes, groundwater and coastal beaches.  Following a consultation process the following key aims were decided:

o Expanding the scope of water protection to all waters, surface waters and groundwater.
o Achieving ‘good status’ for all waters by a set deadline
o Water management based on river basins
o ‘Combined approach’ of emission limit values and quality standards
o Getting the prices right
o Getting the citizen involved more closely
o Streamlining legislation

The area of the Directive focused on here is ‘getting the citizen involved more closely’.


The following reports a number of examples taken from the UK that work towards improvement of water quality and public participation.

* Through the use of technology: reed bed filtration.

* Thames 21. Thames 21 is an environmental charity working with communities to create clean, safe and sustainable waterside environments on London’s rivers, tributaries and canals.

* Humberhead Levels ‘Value in Wetness’. A government agency led project looking to meet the sustainable needs of the Humberhead Levels in view of predicted changes and increases in wetness and wet habitats.

* Calder Future. The Calder Future Partnership exists to provide a co-ordinated approach to river and canal improvements between the relevant statutory bodies and provide opportunities for those that live and work beside the rivers and canals in Calderdale to participate in practical projects on the ground.


"Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making - The Report of the World Commission on Dams" - reception and realization on the world (summary)

JOJI CARINO, Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines; commissioner on the World Commission on dams

At the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg 2002, world leaders reconfirmed a commitment to poverty eradication. The fact that the earth is facing a serious water crisis, and that the poorest are most vulnerable to the effects of this crisis underscores the need for urgent action. The water crisis is one of governance, essentially caused by the ways in which we mismanage water. Addressing these issues of mismanagement and improved water governance requires democratization of water-decision-making and giving equal importance to the social, cultural, ecological and spiritual values of water, alongside its economic values.
The World Commission on Dams Report: Dams and Development, A New Framework for Decision-making highlighted some priorities for water and energy resource development.  Since the report was published, water has been high on the political agenda, including in the upcoming meetings of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (April 2005) and the UN Millennium Summit (September 2005).
My talk will discuss the priorities of indigenous peoples, local communities and civil society for these meetings, and their actions at the local, national, regional and international levels that can make a difference.


The future of Polish rivers, in perspective of flooding” (summary)

JANUSZ ŻELAZIŃSKI, Reader at the Warsaw Institute of Meteorology and Water Management

In the post-war years in Poland, almost 600 cases of flooding were registered, of which 15 were catastrophic floods. During this period spending on anti-flood technology (reservoirs, embankments) was significant, whilst damage caused by floods increased systematically. This phenomenon is observed world-wide (examples from Poland and abroad). This proves the inefficiency of such technological measures, which additionally damage water ecosystems and ecosystems dependent on water (examples).

The current accepted views on reducing effects of flooding have changed drastically (examples from USA and the EU). A number of measures have been suggested which would reduce the effects of flooding and at the same time which would be “kinder to nature” (discussion of the EU “catalogue of good conduct”, examples from Poland and abroad).

The new attitude has hitherto not been accepted in hydro technical circles, as the loan from the European Bank shows.  The initiation of a new attitude requires a drastic change to current legislation.

Natural queen

It is the largest in Poland, the largest flowing into the Baltic Sea, and the largest untamed river in Europe.


For Poles, the Vistula is an object of admiration (hence the volumes of poems and songs), a subject of pride (that it is so huge and wild), and a source of fear (for the same reason!). The Vistula river is Poland.
One of the very first legends that children get to know is the story of princess Wanda, who refused to marry a German prince and chose instead to hurl herself into the Vistula. When I was at nursery school, I also learned to recite poems about the Vistula, known as 'the queen of Polish rivers,' including one by Maria Konopnicka with the phrase:... 'rustling grains in the valley where the blue Vistula flows.' Later I read about the Vistula in school books, and tried to learn the names of all its tributaries.

"A few years ago, the children at my daughter's nursery school staged a performance about the Vistula," says Agnieszka from Warsaw. "Rehearsals took a few months. The children danced, and sang: 'The Vistula flows across the Polish land and as long as it does, Poland will not perish.' All this left my daughter immensely impressed. Long after the spectacle, she kept asking whether we would go to the source of the Vistula." "We were led to Barania Mountain by our guide Józef Broda. We walked through a nature reserve," recalls TV worker Józef Wrzeszcz. "The guide was telling wonderful legends and stories. At the point by the Wisełka (little Vistula) stream, he drew water into his mouth and then blew it out, and a small rainbow appeared before our very eyes. We had no doubt that we were seeing a miracle."


The Vistula starts in the Beskid Śląski mountains, on the slopes of Barania Gora. At first one sees numerous streamlets, that subsequently merge to form two mountain streams: The Little Black Vistula and the Little White Vistula. The two streams, which join up with numerous cousins, form the Vistula. The river, not that wide in its upper reaches, takes more and more breath until falling into the sea through a broad estuary 1,047 kilometers from its source.

"Even though I live in the Tricity, I only recently took my first pleasure cruise on the Gdańsk Bay. We entered the mainstream of the Vistula and headed out for the sea," says Jan Kowalski, a manager. "It was rather narrow, with thickets on both sides, and all of a sudden there was this broad space, from horizon to horizon. That was impressive." No other river of such size enters the Baltic Sea. Neither do the Poles have any other river quite like it. And what about Europe? The Danube is 2,800 kilometers long, the Rhine - 1,320 kilometers. Yet there is a discipline in which the Vistula outclasses its rivals: it is the last big, wild river in Europe.

"We no longer actually call it wild. The Vistula is Europe's river in an almost  natural state," says Jacek Bożek, chairman of the "Club Gaja" Ecological-Cultural Society that has been running a "Vistula Now" programme for the past few years.
A natural river is one that flows freely between the flood-protection embankments and chooses its own path. The Vistula does just that, and that's why you have the sandbanks and islands covered in bushes, a habitat for birds and small animals. That is why there are so many protected areas and nature reserves along the river.

"Man has already developed the whole of Europe. River valleys are the only ecological corridors for the free migration of birds and animals from Northern to Southern Europe and to Africa. These migrations are necessary, and the wilder the river, the easier they are," Jacek Bożek assures.

Vistula has always been important for Poland, even in times when nobody would dream of speaking up on behalf of birds. In the good old days, the ecological corridors were used by people. Europe was then covered with primeval forests and woods, and rivers were the simplest routes of communication. And so, for centuries, Polish grain was transported down the Vistula to Gdańsk, floated by raftsmen. Thanks to the grain and the Vistula, Polish landowners enjoyed a boom for nearly 200 years. Relics testifying to the grain boom have survived in the little town of Kazimierz Dolny, where several dozen granaries were built in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of them are still there to be seen today. The town  nestles on hills from which one can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the river valley. Once a merchant or a nobleman entrusted his goods to the Vistula and the raftsmen in Kraków, he would anxiously wait to see them in Kazimierz. As soon as they appeared, he could calmly work out when the shipment should reach Gdańsk and when he would be able to collect his dues.
The grain boom ended for good during the era of wars with the Swedes. Then the end of the 18th century saw the partitions, with Poland being cut up and annexed by Austria, Prussia, and Russia. The Vistula was cut, too. Each of the three countries had its own policy regarding the river network. Prussia regulated and managed its rivers; Austria had great plans, e.g. to build a canal linking the Danube with the Odra, Veltava, Vistula and Dniestr rivers, but the plans only partly came true. Russia lagged behind, and due to its negligence the middle and part of the lower Vistula have remained unregulated till this day.
After  World War 1, when Poland regained its independence following the "miracle" by the Vistula in August 1920 (when Red Army troops were kept back from the Polish capital), the Poles began discussing the future character of their "queen river". In fact, they are still doing so. At that time, romantics argued with pragmatists, and enthusiasts of recreation argued with engineers, the latter seeking to "streamline" the river, make it navigable, and connect it to the lower Noteć, Warta and Odra rivers. There even was a plan to build a port in Toruń at which big vessels could dock. The plan remained on paper, and then World War 2 broke out. But even if it hbad not, Toruń would have had little chance of welcoming a seagoing fleet.
The concept to regulate the Vistula resurfaced after the War and the 1950s saw a plan for the construction of nine dams on the lower Vistula that were expected to raise the river's level in order for it to be used by merchant ships. In the 1960s a dam was built at Włocławek. It was the first, and (as it turned out) the last dam built on the river.
It was built in Włocławek because it was planned to transport water from the Vistula to Silesia through a concrete canal. "Nobody was shocked because those were the years when our neighbors were turning rivers back," Jacek Bożek says. Now the Włocławek dam needs repairing; water has eroded its lower foundations, threatening a catastrophe. Water engineers want to build another dam at Nieszawa in order to relieve Włocławek, but a new dam would not save the old one. At Włocławek, the best would be to tear the dam down. After all, that is what happened to two dams on tributaries of the Loire, and the Germans are investing to restore the natural character of the Rhine. Years ago, Włocławek residents were told that their problems would be solved by a new dam, at Nieszawa. And they must have believed in that.
"People are afraid of a disaster here. A friend living on the right bank often bas nightmares of the dam collapsing and his house being flooded," says Bernadetta Waszkielewicz, a Włocławek journalist. "On the other hband, the dam creates jobs and this is very important in Włocławek. "
Włocławek's residents fear the Vistula, yet they are getting closer to it. In other towns as well people are starting to take walks and meet down by the river. It has become cleaner, unlike in the 1970s when it bore stinking foam. Fortunately, communist dreams of power are over, and the biggest industrial polluters, the blueeyed boys of party secretaries, have either gone bankrupt or invested in water treatment plants.

"Factories are emitting less pollutants," Jacek Bożek confirms. "Municipal sewage is still a problem, though, and this is what we must handle prior to Poland's accession to the European Union. Besides, the Vistula is a self-cleaning river because it flows naturally."
It also flows naturally through Warsaw. Same dislike that fact, as they think a river in a European capital should be as disciplined as the Seine in Paris. There was already lamentation about the banks of the Vistula being insufficiently managed in the 19th century. The yYears between the wars saw the tidying-up of districts directly by the river, and the construction of boulevards at the foot of the Old Town. People complained that the boat landing stages were not elegant enough. "That isn't true," Krystyna argues. "Before the war I lived in the district of Powiśle and every summer day I would run to the yacht club to go sailing. At that time, the Vistula was full of life: kayaks, canoes, sailing boats, and social life flourishing on the decks."
Today, social life is slowly making its way back to the Vistula. There are dozens of riverfront cafes open in the summer. Still not terribly elegant, but then it is just the beginning. Ecologists are closely monitoring new plans to manage both banks of the river. At their request, the lines of the new suspension bridge in Warsaw were painted orange (instead of white as planned) so they could be noticed by birds flying up and down the river valley. What next?
"If not for the dams, there could be wandering salmon in the Vistula," points out Jacek Bożek. "After all, they're back in the Loire again."

Anna Brzostek Kaleidoscope, listopad 2002
PHf1liqgtiQ" PLL - LOT

An outline of Klub Gaja's activities related to rivers, water and nature which have a direct influence on the Baltic sea basin
Adopt a river programme 2006/2007


Project funding
National Fund for Nature Conservation and Water Management, Regional Fund for Nature Conservation and Water Management in Katowice.

The Minister for the Environment Tadeusz Podgajniak became the Honorary Patron of the environmental education programme Adopt a river

Strategic partners of the programme: Troton, Aquastress

Programme partners: Regional Board of Water Management in Łódź, Regional Board of Water Management in Gliwice, Institute of Water Management and Engineering in Kraków, Gościno local council and Wilkowice local council.

About the programme:
Klub Gaja initiated the Adopt a river programme in 2005. It is a national programme of ecological education, the subject of which is water, rivers and their importance. The programme is based on the promotion of local activities, especially amongst children and young people, with the participation of local institutions such as local governmnets, public administration, non-governmnental organisations and business.

Programme aims:
The aims of the programme are to inspire education institutions, non-governmnental organsiations, local authorities, institutions and businesses to undertake activities concerning the conservation of surface waters, promote a rational use of water resources, conservation of river valley and wetland habitats. Main aims:
* Adopting a river and taking care of it
* Learning skills in the area of water conservation
* Raising awareness of environmental issues
* Encouraging community initiatives
* Awakening awareness of the importance of rivers in our lives
* Building a partnership for rivers
* Promoting the idea of sustainable development

When we speak of adopting a river, we mean taking on the responsibility of becoming its guardian and taking it into our care.  The programme Adopt a river includes such activities as cleaning a river and its banks, giving lessons on the subject of river conservation, organising field trips, searching for a river’s source, testing and monitoring water quality, classifying river plants, learning about the history and geography of the river, naming streams which have no official name, organising art, photography and literature competitions, organising exhibitions and theatre plays, reaching agreements on rivers.


The results:
Together we have adopted 229 rivers, streams and ponds in the whole country. We have even adopted the Baltic sea! These rivers, streams and sea now have their own guardians.


Several thousand people participated in the programme Adopt a river in 2006.
* Education institutions - 3000 in the whole country
* Other institutions - 500 - environmental groups, Departments of Education and Nature Conservation in town and local councils, National Parks, Centres for Environmental Education, Sport Clubs.


Social participation:
The following were invited to participate in the programme: parents' groups, local communities, non-governmental organisations, local authorities -  town presidents, mayors, members of the local council,  Departments of  Education, Nature Conservation and Agriculture in town and local councils, Centres for Environmental Education, Regional Boards for Water Management, National Forests, Hunting and Fishing groups, The Fire Service, Meteorological Stations, the National Sanitation Authority.

Reaching agreements for rivers
An Agreement for the river Parsęta was signed  as part of the programme, which will hopefully serve as an example of  cooperation between education institutions, local authorities and business with the aim of protecting rivers. The institutions which signed the agreement were: Dygowo and Gościno local authorities, the Zachodnio Pomorskie region Water Industry Agency, local schools, the Gościno region Forest Authority, K.W.S „Salomo”, Troton company and Klub Gaja.


Adopt a river in the media:
* Newspapers –  Rzeczpospolita, Gazeta Wyborcza, Trybuna, Dziennik Zachodni,  Kronika Beskidzka, Zwierciadło, Wędkarski świat, Wegetariański Świat, Gazeta Kołobrzeska,        Głos Koszaliński, Express Polish Weekly, Głos Pomorza, Lakiernik
* Radio – Radio Bis , Radio Eska, , Radio Katowice, Radio Bielsko, 
* Television - TVP 1, Kanał E,  local TVP3 Katowice, Cable Bielsko-Biała,
* Internet –
Adopt a river 2006/2007 educational materials
Distributed to 3500 institutions throughout the country:
* A pack of 3 Adopt a river posters (3 x 3,500 copies) 
* Adopt a river leaflet (15,000 copies)
* Adopt a river booklet (4,000 copies)
* A 9 poster exhibition „How we adopted a river” (9 x 3,500 copies).

Another Klub Gaja programme which has a direct influence on water quality of the Baltic sea basin is Tree Day

Main aims:
* Increasing the number of tree and forest cover in the country
* Raising awareness of environmental issues
* Promoting the idea of sustainable development

* In the IV edition of Tree Day in 2006, tens of thousands of trees were planted throughout the country.

Over a hundred thousand people took part in Tree Day in 2006
* 3000 education institutions
* 500 other institutions – non-governmental organisations, Departments of  Education and Nature Conservation in town and local councils, Centres for Environmental Education, National Parks and 428 local forest authorities.
Social participation:
The following were invited to participate in the programme: local forest authorities, parents' groups, local communities, local authorities - town presidents, mayors, members of the local council, MPs, Departments of  Education and Conservation in town and local councils, Centres for Environmental Education, school inspectors, Regional Police departments, roman catholic and orthodox church councils, local business and local media.

Klub Gaja is also a partner of the programme The Baltic is in Poland, the aim of which is to raise social awareness of the problems and especially the environmental threats facing the Baltic.

Klub Gaja cooperates with the public administration in the area of river and water protection, through such activities as:

* participation in the work carried out by the National Board for Nature Conservation.
* participation in the work carried out by the Regional Board for Water Management in Katowice
* participation in the work carried out by the department for the Basin of the Upper Vistula in the Regional Board for Water Management in Kraków
* participation in the work carried out by the Permanent Committee for Social Participation in the Department for Water Management in the Minor Vistula and Upper Oder in the Regional Board for Water Management Gliwice

"Adopt a River" - Klub Gaja's Programme Among the Best in Europe

The Green Spider Network - a network of institutions and organizations created and supported by the European Commission and DG Environment - each year nominates five best environmental outreach programs. Those five programs are competing for the title of Best Practice. The winning programme will be announced this year in October 2008, in general meeting, in France.


We are very happy to inform you, that this year, Klub Gaja's "Adopt a River" ecological education programme is in the final!

We are especially proud of this nomination because "Adopt a River" is the only non-governmental organization (NGO) project competing for the Best Practice Award 2008.


Other projects include: "One Tonne Less" from Dennmark, "CITES" from Hungary, "Thick Jumper Day" from Belgium and "Naturdetektive" from Germany - and are all government-operated projects.


For more information about The Green Spider Network and this year's selected programs please follow the link below:


Programme "Adopt a River" is cofunded by: Community Assistance Fund (Fundusz Inicjatyw Obywatelskich), Regional Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Katowice (Wojewódzki Fundusz Ochrony Środowiska  and Gospodarki Wodnej w Katowicach), and  The Fisheries Secretariat. "Adopt a River" is under the patronage of the Minister of Environmental Protection.


"Adopt the River-our Rivers flow into the Balitc Sea" project

is focused on the importance of fish industry, especially concerning cod and salmon in the Baltic Sea.

Within the framework "Adopt the River-our Rivers flow into the Baltic Sea" project, we organized 6 lectures in Bełchatów, Racibórz, Wilkowice, Robuń and Wrocław.
We prepared educational materials and books. Also, we gave number of radio and TV interviews and we put ads in the newspapers and on the Internet.
One of our promotional activities included the preparation of the happening called "The Story of a Golden Fish", about the protection of  biodiversity of the Baltic Sea, well balanced fish industry and protection of cod and salmon. The happening took place in those cities and on the following dates:
  1. Warszawa, 8 June 2008 - 129 email invitations sent on 5 June 2008. Furthermore, 51 invitations sent via fax. Friendly reminder sent to 129 addresses again on 6 June 2008. The happening was covered by the following media representatives: Radio TOK FM, Polish Radio IAR (Radio News Agency), TVP Warsaw, Radio ESKA, and Radio Niepokalanów. Radio TOK FM run the story a day before on Saturday, 7 June 2008.
  2. Katowice, 10 June 2008 - 58 email invitations sent on 6 June 2008. Furthermore, 18 invitations sent via fax. Friendly reminder sent to 58 addresses again on 9 June 2008. The happening was covered by the following media representatives: Radio Katowice, Radio EM, Antyradio, Daily Newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza", AF Edytor, Radio ESKA, Forum Agency, TV Katowice, Radio CCM, TV Silesia, TVP 3, Express, Radio TOK FM.
  3. Hel, 1 July 2008 - 11 email invitations sent on 27 June 2008. Friendly reminder sent to 11 addresses again on 9 June 2008. The happening took place in the main promenade near the Hel Town Hall .
  4. Gdynia, 2 July 2008 - 11 email invitations sent on 27 June 2008. Friendly reminder sent to 11 addresses again on 29 June 2008. The happening took place at the Kościuszko Square. It was covered by a journalist from Radio Gdańsk.
  5. Hel, 4 July 2008, Klub Gaja organized additional performance of "The Story of a Golden Fish" on the grounds of Marine Station of the Oceanographic Institute of the University of Gdańsk. It was covered by the journalists from the Internet News Portal - Wirtualna Polska. The story was published under the portal's project called "Poland is cool" ("Polska jest fajna").
  6. Kolobrzeg, 12 July 2008 - 13 email invitations sent on 8 July 2008. 108 addresses were included in the email sent again on 10 July 2008. The happening took place near the  lighthouse. Press releases included: 11 July, in Gazeta Kołobrzeska and Daily City („Dziennik Miasto”), 11-13 July in Gazeta Kołobrzeg. The happening was covered by Miasto – Gazeta Kołobrzeg, Gazeta Koszalin, Gazeta Kołobrzeg, Radio Koszalin.

International Water Day in Bielsko-Biała, Poland, 21 March 2011


"Adopt a River"
Klub Gaja is one of the oldest, leading civil society organization dealing with environmental protection and animal rights in Poland. It was founded by Jacek Bożek in 1988. The mission of Klub Gaja is to protect our planet Earth and to preserve the natural environment for us and for future generations.


Klub Gaja has been active in various fields of environmental protection for more than 22 years. We work for nature conservation. We carry out national campaigns and programs aimed at protection of rivers and river valleys. We publicize environmental risks and proble¬ms related to human activity and emphasize  our shared responsibility for the condition of our environment. In our educational activities, events and workshops, we use non-conventional methods and various forms of art.


In 2005, Klub Gaja, has initiated an educational program "Adopt a River" which reflects the ideas behind the International Water Day.
Its main theme is water, especially rivers and their significance in nature. Equally important is issue of raising awareness among the citizens about their role in the society.
Because of the increasing necessity to protect the surface water, we promote the principles of  the sustainable development, we raise the awareness and build the environmentally friendly attitudes such as: responsible water management and protection of the biodiversity.


This year edition of "Adopt a River" will concentrate on  promotion of the International Water Day, European event Big Jump and EU Water Framework Directive. Together, people clean the rivers, create parks along the rivers as well as recreational places. Moreover, they are looking for a relationship between rivers and their own history, identity and they build consensus for the rivers.


Thanks to the previous editions of "Adopt a River" 320 Polish rivers, brooks and streams and even the Baltic Sea gained new supporters interested in their future. In 2010 we had 28,000 participants.

In 2008, the Klub Gaja's project "Adopt a River" was nominated for the Best Practis 2008 awarded by the Green Spider Network - the network of institutions and organizations created and supported by the European Commission and DG Environment.



Project River
Project River promoting different aspects of water protection took place on 21 March 2010, in Bielsko-Biała, on the eve of the International Water Day. The organizers of the Project River included among others: city institutions, City Hall, NGOs and private entities, for example: BWA Gallery, Klub Gaja, District Bielsko-Biała and Gallery Sfera (Galeria Bielska BWA, Klub Gaja, Gmina Bielsko-Biała i Galeria Sfera). Honorable patronage by Ministry of the Environment.


The main events within the framework of the Project River included:
1/International conference "Water and its importance in the correct functioning of the ecosystems".
2/ Artistic and ecological activities in and around Bielsko-Biała and near the Biała River:
- Walks for Water (in the morning and in the evening),
- Performance by the group Art near the Biała River. Color Ballet: dance, music, lights and sounds show,
- Welcoming Spring - environmental sculpture by Waldemar Rudyk,
- What river? - a multimedia project around the Biała River,
- Art Exhibition "Biała nad Białą"  prepared by the Biała Gallery (Galeria Biała) in Lublin.

International conference "Water"
The participants at the conference "Water and its importance in the correct functioning of the ecosystems" included leaders of the projects designed to create engaged social, political and economical attitudes which promote protection of the rivers. Representative from Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom and Poland took part in the event. At the conference the following presentations took place:
- Water Framework Directive (WFD) (Ramowa Dyrektywa Wodna) and civic involvement in its implementation  – Anna Żmuda, representative of the Regional Water Management Board in Kraków (Regionalny Zarząd Gospodarki Wodnej), Poland,
- The River//Cities Platform – culture for the development of the public spaces on the river banks – Agnieszka Wlazeł, president of the Impact Foundation, Poland,
- World Water Week in Stockholm – Katarzyna Andrzejewska, Project Manager World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden,
- Thames Festival, London, UK – building the network of support for the development of the riparian areas (civic, political and environmental influence of the cultural events) – Kitty Ross, Programme Manager at Thames Festival, UK,
- "Adopt a River" (Zaadoptuj rzekę) – Jacek Bożek, prezes Klubu Gaja.

Walks for Water
At sunrise, Jacek Bożek from Klub Gaja created a mandala (symbol of harmony in nature) near the Biała River begins, where the two of the mountain streams, Straconka and Olszówka, meet. A few hours later, from that place the walk began along the Biała River's banks, which ended on the symbolic bridge connecting two towns divided by one river Bielsko and Biała. All the participants of the walk could take part in the Polish folk ceremony of welcoming Spring which involves the drowning of the marzanna. Attending the walk were citizens of Bielsko-Biała and invited guests. During the walk, all who took part could appreciate the natural, scenic and cultural qualities of the Biała River.  In the evening, Walk for Water took place along the same route in silence. In these two walks took part about 30 people.



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