GB No. 4, spring 1991


About two years ago Wilczek, the Minister of Industry, decided to develop petrol production in Poland. It was decided to build a refinery with a capacity of 6 million tons in Bestwina, a small village in Silesia, near an old refinery in Czechowice- Dziedzice. The industrial lobby wanted to locate the factory on farm and forest lands, but the local population and authorities refused. After a year-long fight against the project (demonstrations, petitions, etc.), the investors, led by Alojzy Wasyl, gave up. (Compare "Refined cancer - NO!" GREEN BRIGADES NO.1). But not for long.

In June 1990, during the inauguration of the new town council of Oświęcim, the chief of the local administration proposed the location of a refinery in Oświęcim. Later we discovered that this proposition was only the tip of the iceberg.

There is a project advocated by the Polish petrol lobby to heavily develop this sector of the chemical industry in Poland. The project includes construction of a new harbor for tankers in Gdańsk (to handle over 30 million tons of oil yearly) and a pipeline to Southern Poland linking several new refineries. One of them is to be built in Oświęcim (Auschwitz) where a huge chemical factory with over 6500 workers already exists. (Oświęcim has about 40,000 inhabitants.) In the vicinity two old, strongly-polluting refineries already exist - in Czechowice-Dziedzice and Trzebinia.

From the beginning environmentalists were set against this project. The main reasons were:

  1. Oświęcim is located in the Sile sian area of ecological disaster.
  2. There is overconcentration of environmentally unfriendly industries (e.g. one of the biggest chemical factories in Poland).
  3. The refinery will cover 250 ha of farmland.
  4. A nature reserve on the border of the planned refinery is to be destroyed.
  5. The proposed location (in a valley between two rivers, the Wisła and Soła) has poor air circulation.
  6. Two factories close by pose a danger if there are any accidents.
  7. Ten thousand workers are to be employed to build the refinery, which will cause the city to grow very rapidly; the city doesn't even have a waste water treatment plant.
  8. Environmental law in Poland is weak, the industrial lobby is very strong, especially in Oświęcim.
  9. An increase in oil transportation on the Baltic is an international problem and another threat to that sea.

Instead of this project the Oświęcim's Green Federation has proposed modernizing existing refineries (the industrial lobby advocates their closure). They also warn that in heavily-polluted Southern Poland the area poisoned by the fuel and energy industry must not grow. After the chemical factory director requested official permission, the Greens started to organize demonstrations and collect petition signatures protesting the petrol industry's development in the area. Several councils in districts surrounding Oświęcim have assumed a hostile attitude towards the refinery.

Despite the protests the local authorities of Oświęcim have accepted the project. In any case, the final decision must be made in Warsaw.

Piotr Rymarowicz

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GB No. 4, spring 1991 | Contents