Poland road protest

15 April 2008

Environmental Groups in Poland have demonstrated in Warsaw, Szczecin, Gdansk, and Krakow against the construction of a highway that would cross one of Europe's rare peat bogs.

The Polish Government approved plans earlier this month to construct a section of the Via Baltica, a Trans European Network (TENs) road and ferry scheme to link Helsinki with Prague. The Augustow Town bypass, one of eight schemes connected with the project in Poland, will cross the Rospuda Valley, which is a protected peat bog, and will also run close to the Rospuda River in north-east Poland.

The decision violates EU Directive (2004/35/EC), which is designed to protect rare ecological environments. The European Commission has demanded an explanation and threatened sanctions if the project goes ahead. In reply the government said delaying construction would threaten Poland's plans to improve its infrastructure and integrate with existing TENs.

The protestors, led by local CEE Bankwatch Network activists, say the presence of heavy construction equipment and the piles needed to support the road will destroy dozens of rare plants and animals found only in the bog.

When complete the 670 km E67, or Via Baltica, will run from Prague in the Czech Republic to Helsinki in Finland by way of Poland, Kaunas (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia), and Tallinn (Estonia). The final stretch between Tallinn and Helsinki is ferry link.

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