GB No. 3(18)/95


ARE WE GOING TO DESTROY PARS TA?

WHERE IS IT?

The river ParsÍta and its basin which covers 40% of the Koszalin voivodship lies in the northern part of central Pomorze. Parseta and its tributaries are in their upper reaches of mountain character: they have a fairly steep gradient and they carry masses of organic material. Many parts of the ParsÍta flows through forests, thickets and sodden meadows. Its numerous bends allow the river to deposit the carried material along its way. Its banks are inaccessible and therefore wild. Even anglers visit them rarely.

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Such conditions, unique in Europe, are favourable for many fish species like bulltrout, grayling or trout. Also, salmon stocking is planned. Many water birds inhabit the vicinity of the river: kingfisher, mountain wagtail, corncrake (on the verge of extinction) or warbler. In winter the ducker comes, in summer the riverside meadows are feeding grounds for black and white stork and in spring you can hear a green woodpecker at work.

The banks of the ParsÍta are covered with alders, willows and magnificent old oaks. The ParsÍta Lovers Association applied for a landscape park to be created out of a part of the basin as well as of several nature reserves.

The ParsÍta due to its natural character is highly capable of self-regulation. Its water is well saturated with oxygen and cool, which is favourable for fish of the salmon family.

DANGERS

Although the basin of the ParsÍta is neither highly industrialised nor densely inhabited its is endangered by substantial amounts of municipal sewage water. Therefore a few years ago the Union of Towns and Villages of the ParsÍta Basin came to existence. Action undertaken by the Union led to building and putting into operation several sewage treatment plants. These are undoubtedly precious initiatives of the Union. However, recently the Union together with the voivodship authorities engaged in a plan of "Hydro-enginering management of the ParsÍta basin". The scheme developed by the Warsaw company "Bipromel" includes building 6 reservoirs (4 on the ParsÍta and two on the Radwia and Mogielnica respectively). They were to reach about 350 ha which meant that the scheme was of great scale in the case of the river.

At present (i.e. June 1995) the area assigned for the planned reservoir "Ocůwko", 10 km to the north of Po≥czyn Zdrůj, has already been surveyed. This is to be the largest reservoir (350 ha) of agricultural and energy production purpose (a small hydro-turbine is planned in the dam). The lands to surround the future artificial lake are covered with thickets, meadows and woods: amenities for tourists are planned there.

Building the reservoir would mean clearing the thickets and woods (which is opposed by the State Forest Board), flooding the winding present river bed as well as the old one and changing of the river's character totally ("the flow rate in the reservoirs will be reduced and therefore water will be less oxygen-saturated" - reads the plan of the enterprise.)

The scheme is not sufficiently justifiable in economical terms. The planned power plants are very small and, since the natural balance of the river is to be violated, "clean energy production" cannot be spoken of. The enterprise requires many drainage works and forest felling whose consequence is lessening of water retention and acceleration of the surface run-off. Water for farming purposes would have to be pumped up over long distances. On the other hand we have to bear in mind that floods are not a serious threat and they are an important factor for the biological balance.

In spite of the designers' wishes, the number of jobs in this region of high unemployment (30 - 40%) will not grow substantially. Modern dams are built quickly, by means of heavy equipment and under professional supervision.

As the ParsÍta is a river of mountain character, in spring it carries large amounts of organic material that will gather in the reservoirs and this way their capacity would quickly decrease. Also, the profits from tourism seem to be wishful thinking. The nearby reservoirs created as long ago as before the second World War are hardly visited by tourists. They prefer the Baltic Sea and the Drawsko Lake District.

OPINIONS

The leading advocate of the scheme is the Union of Towns and Villages of the ParsÍta Basin whose arguments I mentioned before. The scheme was also approved by the Voivodship Commission for Nature Conservation in Koszalin and the Regional Board for Water Management in Szczecin. The Voivod of Koszalin has asked the fund PHARE for financial support. The Employment Office hopes that the scheme will reduce the unemployment in the region. Also, there are many institutions that would make a profit on the project: on transport of soil and wood, on organising infrastructure for tourism, etc. The local community counts on finding at least temporary jobs, which is an important argument since many of them are ex-employees of the State farms who have lost the right to claim benefit.

The scheme of the ParsÍta management is in a way unique: namely many state institutions oppose the plan.

The Board of the State Forests in Szczecinek is afraid of losing several hundreds hectares of woods and of flooding large areas, which would force the foresters to fell even more forest. Professor Bartel from the Inland Fishing Institute points at the impact of river damming on fish of the salmon family. Damming up water by 2-3 m only in one place can stop all bulltrout going up the river to breed. The suggested fish passes will not solve the problem entirely and, moreover, they make ideal places for poaching. Also, turbines of the power plants kill a lot of fish. Carrying out the project would mean thwarting all the efforts of fishermen to restock the ParsÍta with salmon. This would lead, in turn, to decrease the salmon catch in the Baltic.

The State Council for Nature Conservation issued a negative assessment of the project. The opinion is also shared by the Director of the Ministerial Nature Conservation Department, Mr Wrůbel, PhD. The stand of the Polish Angling Union is not clear but many of its members point at dangers to the fish population.

In June 1995 a meeting was held of the voivodship authorities, the Union of the Towns and Villages of the ParsÍta Basin and the parliamentary Commission for Nature Conservation. The ParsÍta Lovers Association initiated a discussion during which the MP's spoke against the scheme.

OUR ACTION

In May 1995 the members of the ParsÍta Lovers Association together with the Polish Society for Protection of Birds decided to study the environment of the ParsÍta thoroughly. We organised walking inspections of the ParsÍta and Radwia as well as a 20 km long boat trip down the ParsÍta. Data concerning the breeding of kingfishers was confirmed (we saw as much as 15 of them) and similarly of mountain wagtail. On the banks of the Radwia many swallows nest and the riverside meadows and thickets echo with voices of nightingale, corncrake (in Western Europe they are extremely rare) and warbler. Wild thicket and woods are the habitat of green woodpecker that becomes increasingly rare in other parts of Poland.

But it was oaks that made the deepest impression on me. They are numerous in the area. Some of them deserve the name of natural monuments but nobody has ever measured them. In some places the terrain makes it impossible to reach the river. When you go by water time and again you need to duck under boughs and carry the canoes. You will remember such a trip all your life: it requires strong boats and backpacks that would float on the water in case of capsizing. You may also need to know how to swim in boots. Our galoshes were left on the bottom of the river - I hope we will be forgiven that.

CONCLUSION

I want to believe that the era of severe and inconsiderate violation of nature is becoming a thing of the past. The growing number of actions undertaken by environmentalists as well as many institutions, even these state ones, let me hope that the primeval character of the ParsÍta basin will be preserved.

I would like the ParsÍta to be a meeting place for people who can fully appreciate its natural beauty and the role it plays in the local ecosystem.

There is a watchword: "Let the river live" which relates to all the natural and virgin places on the Earth. When I think of ParsÍta its message becomes to me even clearer.

Juliusz Kisiel

From the editor (of Dzikie Įycie - pr): The author's conclusion sounds relatively optimistic. Unfortunately, the recent information concerning the ParsÍta prevents us from sharing this optimism. Therefore we appeal to all of you, friends of the wild life: defend the ParsÍta! The excerpt from the plan of the enterprise that reached the editorial office was marked with a stamp THE ECO-DEVELOPMENT OF THE REGION. Its authors are not bothered by the fact that the scheme leading to destruction of many endangered species' habitats is contradictory to the ecological policy of the state. And to make the project sell better its advocates garnish it with the word "eco-development".

reprinted from Dzikie Įycie (Wild Life),
September 1995
translated by Ma≥gorzata Maciejewska

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GB No. 3(18)/95 | Contents