New route for Via Baltica motorway ends battle to save wetland
Poland’s council of ministers has agreed on a new route for the Via Baltica motorway that has earned the approval of environmental campaigners who fought a long battle to protect an ancient wetland site threatened by an earlier route.
The road, part of the EU’s trans-European transport network, will now be built via Lomza. Campaigners say this is not only the more environmentally sound option but is also valid on economic, traffic and social grounds. It will mean heavy lorries using the road will not now damage three Natura 2000 sites: the Biebrza marshes and the Knyszyn and Augustow primeval forests.
The EU threatened Poland with legal action because it had not satisfied rules on environmental impact assessments over the route it had originally proposed. In particular it had not looked at alternatives given the high level of protection enjoyed by areas through which the motorway would have passed.
Although the campaign, coordinated internationally by CEE Bankwatch Network, has been won on this stretch of road, the groups involved say they are still working to protect a number of other protected sites in north-east Poland, including another road-building project in the Knyszyn forest.