GB No. 8, summer 1992


The present government, headed by the Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka, happens to be the first "Solidarity" based Polish government to be visibly dismissive of the ecological matters. In her expoze Ms Suchocka made no mention of any nationvide, ecological policies, whilst the post of the Minister of the Environment was awarded to a hardly transpired at the hearing of the revelant parliamentary committee. Let alone his first ministerial decisions.

According to the assessment of the Parliamentary Committee for the Protection of the Environment, Natural Resources and Forestry, Mr Zygmunt Hortmanowicz "does not boast an adequate knowledge in the domain of environmental protection, natural resources and forestry and is hardly familiar with the specifics of his ministerial brief. His grasp of the financing procedures pertaining to the protection of natural environment, management of the national water and energy resources, and forestry, is far from impressive" (...).

Despite this bluntly negative recommendation issued by the Parliamentary Committee, all projects currently under way in the Ministry of the Environment, previously headed by an independent specialist - Prof. Stefan Kozłowski - have been shelved.

It is indeed difficult to make out what kind of person the newly appointed minister really is. His first days in office were dedicated to the compilation of a CV with a visibly ecological bias. He is neither known to the academic ecologists nor to the environmental activists. In order to be granted an interview one is supposed to mail the questions and then wait patiently for the reply. He is known to confuse in his public speeches an eco-conversion with the alternative energy resources; has recently endorsed an increase in the price of lead-free petrol and apparently does not mind departing from the ecological priorities set by the government.

His political allegiance - he is a member of People's Alliance - appears to be the one and only fact about him established beyond any doubt. The fellow party activists say that in his case it is only the question of "fitting in".

Well, he'd better fit in fast, as one of the projects currently in the pipeline is the administrative linkage of the National Parks and Forestry. In practice this would obviously lead to the commercial exploitation of National Parks, even those with no significant forested areas (like the Mazury Lake District and the river Biebrza marshlands). Even if those who claim the overstaffing of the Ministry are right in their estimates, taking any drastic measures would hardly seem to be the order of the day. His Ministry is presently overflowing with a multitude of conflicting concepts and ideas, so unless Mr Hortmanowicz "fits in" fast, his reign might soon prove to have caused more damage than good.

Presently the major problem with the protection of the environment is that very shortly there will be hardly any cash left to pay for it with. The newly appointed Minister has already been briefed about the existence of the National Fund for the Protection of the Environment and about its quite substantial assets, as a result of collecting financial penalties for excessive pollution from all perpetrators. The pity is, however, that he was not briefed about the precise objectives of maintaining such a fund.

The Minister was not advised therefore that the Fund was designed to provide the financial assistance for the construction of sewage treatment plants, installation of anti-pollution filters in factories, and for the general enforcement of ecological standards nationwide, and that it was, in fact, his chief ministerial prerogative to safeguard it against depletion.

It has already been decreed, that foreign industrial investors shall not be subject to financial penalties for causing excessive pollution. The basic ecological regulations are already being openly contravened in regard to the industrial giants (i.e. the cellulose plant in Kwidzyń). Apparently the coal mines are to be exempted from the standard operational charges, which in turn is bound to deplete the special geological fund for the recultivation of the environmentally damaged areas. The gradual liquidation of the National Fund for the Protection of the Environment is synonymous with the abrogation of the control over the national ecology - in the country boasting 27 zones defined as ecologically jeopardized and progressive deterioration of public health.

In the wake of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro it did look like the Polish government might be eventually adopting a set of specific ecological policies, and the Ministry of Environment would consequently be granted a much wider scope of authority, that would preferably extend beyond the current political expediency.

Krystyna Morawska-Staszczuk
"Nowa Europa" 10.9.92 transl. by Sigullum Ltd.

GB No. 8, summer 1992 | Contents