GB No. 8, summer 1992


...In November 1991, Kemal Dervis, the director of Central and East European department of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) signed a memo concerning a grant to the Polish Environment Ministry of 4,5 mln US $ for biodiversity projects in the forests of the Sudeten Mountains and Białowieża.

...Białowieża has been allocated 1.570.000 US $ (of which 390,000 is for preserving biodiversity, 480,0000$ for protecting and managing the forest and 207,000 for ORGANIC AGRICULTURE in the buffer zone). The following payments are to be made by the IBRD: 1992 - 1 mln, 1993 - 2 mln, 1994 - 1,5 mln US $. The farms to go over to organic agriculture were to have been selected between January and April 1992. The priority in the strategy is to enlarge the areas to be protected...

Most of the money has been designated for monitoring and research, in the widest sense of the world. All this is to be carried out in cooperation with the Bialorussian side, because the primeval forest knows no boundaries (this one actually does and, quite specifically, with a wire fence)...


The World Bank has the worst reputation among people working in the field of rescuing dying species, but - maybe - just here and now, it will decide to change its image. If these donated funds are in fact to be used in rescuing the forest and not as a means of making our forestry dependent on the politics of the global financial giants, it may be worth making use of them. However can the monitoring of the World Bank activities be undertaken by institutions funded by them?

According to information from the press and other sources, Białowieża is not the only battlefield between ecologists and foresters.

Professors Sokołowski and Falinski attempted to increase the area of the reserve tenfold. The foresters would not have it. We've even heard opinions that since opportunities for carrying out research projects on this great reserve (less than 5,000 hectares) have dried up, the scientists need now sites in order to earn money. According to foresters, it's the environmentalists that will cause the death of the forest, because "a forest has to be felled in order for it to grow", because hornbean is taking over from oak and last but not least, a 10-fold increase in the size of the reserve means a 10-fold drop in losses for the Polish economy.

...So what's to be done with the forest? Allow access to timber experts and wealthy tourists (which they have anyway, and the growing network of increasingly accessible roads through the forest, the tarmacing of new roads helps enormously in this)...

...We have volumes of research work about the forest. We know just about everything! And we have a church and probably the last monument in Poland dedicated to the building of socialism... and a sewage works in the process of construction - just next to the reserve; and a rubbish tip - right next to the global biosphere reserve; ...and a gravel pit in the middle of the forest, beside the 100-year old oaks and lime trees, under which lie scattered latrine (toilet) buckets left by the army (there was an output here); and the primeval forest divided by wire fences, de-lineated in such a way that no larger animal can cross it; and sick bison; and the architecturally ugly, shabby hotel smoking out the place even in the middle of summer in the Palace Park - relics from the tsarist history of Białowieża... From aerial photographs, the forest looks like a draughts (chess) board, with more white than dark patches.

...What about the monitoring of the World Bank's project on the part of NGOs, which is mentioned in the GEF memo (because if the forest finds itself in the hands of multinational financial institutions and finds itself in the hands of multinational financial institutions and State institutions, then sooner or later, it will become a political sacrifice)? Will we continue to read in the tourist brochure about the forest: "Tourist, do not drive on unmarked roads within the forest, because you may be in danger of hitting heavy machinery and vehicles"?

...So, what do you propose those thousands of people living in the vicinity and off the primeval forest, because large-scale organic agriculture is wishful thinking, and tourism and hunting will not support the local people, unless one creates a nature museum-lunapark (a type of primeval forest mind-blowing experience) with hotels and casinos, assisted by "ecological" timber production for wealthy Europe...

Janusz Korbel
trans. Iza Kruszewska

GB No. 8, summer 1992 | Contents