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Siarzewo dam construction blocked. Environmentalists were right

25 of August '21

After several years of struggle by environmental organizations, the Minister of Climate and Environment has revoked the decision on environmental conditions for the construction of a dam on the Vistula in Siarzewo. The water stage near Ciechocinek is a project pulled out of a drawer from decades ago.

eternally alive communist Poland


Siarzewo water stage project

photo: Wody Polskie

At the beginning of 2021, Wody Polskie announced tender proceedings for the Siarzewo water stage project. The project will include a dam, a weir with a sluice, and a hydroelectric power plant with a capacity of about 80 MW. The huge construction costs of the plant, estimated at about 4.5 billion zlotys, were to be justified by the need for flood protection and drought prevention. The condition of the Wloclawek dam is also not without significance. Commissioned in1970, the investment was supposed to be only part of a series of water stages on the Vistula, but these were never built. This, in turn, causes increased erosion of the bottom at the dam itself, which is not protected by the backwater from the never-realized Siarzewo water stage.

Renaturation and toxic sedimentation


The dam in Wloclawek

photo by Marcin polak / Wikimedia Commons

Environmental organizations, including WWF and the Free Rivers Coalition, however, argue that the solution to the problems of the Wloclawek barrage is not to build another dam, but to dismantle the existing one and renaturalize this section of the Vistula. Such a move would, in turn, entail the need to drain the area now occupied by the lagoon and dispose of harmful sediments. The mixture, composed of, among other things, pesticides and heavy metals, has been deposited there since the dam's inception, and is linked to, among other things, industrial development in the 1970s. Environmentalists pointed out, however, that extending the life of the Wloclawek dam, does not eliminate the problem, but only shifts the responsibility to future generations.

contested decision


The Vistula River at the height of the planned hydroelectric dam in Siarzewo

photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 2016, the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection issued a negative decision for the construction of the dam in Siarzewo. In 2017, however, after personnel changes at the institution, the RDOŚ changed its mind. An appeal against the decision was filed by environmental organizations. Eventually, in August 2021, the Minister of Climate and Environment revoked the appealed document in its entirety and sent it for reconsideration. The organizations that appealed the decision are mainly afraid of irreversible destruction of fish, bird and amphibian habitats. The appeals were filed by Klub Gaja, the Society for the Protection of Nature, the Greenmind Foundation, the Society for the Earth, the All-Poland Society for the Protection of Birds, the Alauda Nature Society, the Naturalists' Club and WWF Poland.

the art of protest

Artist Cecilia Malik has also joined the fight against the investment plans of the Polish Waters . The artist, known for her social actions on such issues as the protection of Krakow's Zakrzówek and the Cracovia Hotel, has set up the Sisters of the River project . The participants of the action protest against regulation and concreting, and thus against the destruction of entire ecosystems.

Siostry Rzeki

Sister Rivers action

photo: Facebook - Cecilia Malik

They organize happenings on the water, sew and present bathing suits with a "pro-regulation" message embroidered on them, so they manage to break through to the media. In this way, the action of the River Sisters awakens public awareness of how great a treasure the Vistula, Nida, Dunajec or Tarnawka rivers are for us. Their actions are shown in a documentary film with the same title.

Kacper Kępiński

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