Poland Struggles to Contain Oder River Environmental Catastrophe

The Oder river, which runs along Poland's border with Germany before flowing into the Baltic Sea, is suffering from an environmental disaster and dead fish are washing up on the river banks. For over two weeks, local volunteers with the authorities have removed more than 10 tonnes of dead fish from the river area on the Polish side. According to Polish and German authorities, toxic substances dumped into the river are the likely cause of the disaster. EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN 

Polish Minister of Climate and Environment Anna Moskwa (L) said none of the tests conducted in Poland so far has identified the toxic substance believed to be the culprit for killing the fish. "At the same time, we are conducting tests on fish. We have completed fish tests for mercury and heavy metals. Neither mercury nor heavy metals was found in the collected samples," Moskwa said, after a meeting on August 14 with her German counterpart, Federal Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety, and Consumer Protection Steffi Lemke (R). EPA-EFE/Marcin Bielecki

The response of the Polish authorities has become more determined over the last few days, when the scale of the crisis became obvious. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the firing of two key officials and apologised for the belated official response to the disaster, claiming he had only heard about it for the first time last week. Initially, politicians of the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) were seen either minimising its urgency or trying to deflect blame. Grzegorz Witkowski, vice-minister in charge of infrastructure, was heard last week saying he would go into the river to show there was no danger (he never did), while Krystyna Pawlowicz, a Constitutional Tribunal judge,...

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