Appearing drained and pressured, Piotr Wloch appears out dejectedly at his empty vacationer boats on the Oder river after an environmental catastrophe that has killed 1000’s of fish.
Like many local businesses, Wloch has seen bookings plunge by 90 % following the as but unexplained disaster on the luxurious banks of a river between Poland and Germany.
“I’m just starting to realize the scale of what happened,” Wloch advised AFP.
“Yesterday, I slept all day because I was depressed, unable to move,” he mentioned.
The stench of useless fish fills the air.
Between 200 and 300 kilograms (440-660 kilos) of useless fish have been eliminated in Cigacice prior to now few days—out of round 300 metric tons in total from the Oder because the begin of August, officers mentioned.
“Everyone is afraid. Only some curious people pop in to have a look, but life has stopped,” mentioned Lukasz Duch, director of an area sports activities middle.
“Before the air pollution, on weekend, Cigacice would draw between 5,000 and 10,000 vacationers.
“This place was full of life… Now businesses are making nothing in high season,” he mentioned.
‘Afraid of the river’
While the primary indicators of air pollution appeared on the finish of July, the world round Cigacice was solely affected on August 8.
Thousands of useless fish started showing within the water. In the area as an entire, residents and firefighters rushed to their river in an effort to scrub it up.
Poland’s authorities solely reacted on August 12, sparking widespread criticism from each native Polish authorities and Germany.
“If we had had the information two weeks earlier, we would have prepared,” mentioned Wojciech Soltys, the mayor of Sulechow, the municipality the place Cigacice is situated.
“Now we are still waiting for clear and concrete information. What happened? When will we be able to go back to the river?”
The Oder begins within the Czech Republic earlier than passing into Poland the place it varieties a pure border with Germany after which leads to the Baltic Sea.
Until the top of the Nineteen Nineties, it was closely polluted—an industrial legacy of the communist period.
In 1997, following huge flooding, the river cleaned up naturally and other people started returning to its banks.
Wloch was a part of this motion.
“We worked for a long time for people to come and bathe in the river, relax here. In the 1980s and 1990s it looked terrible,” he mentioned.
“Now, people are afraid of the river again. It will be difficult to restore this confidence,” mentioned Wloch, who has seen 12 years of labor disappear in a second.
Toxic algae from air pollution
Krzysztof Feodorowicz, proprietor of a winery within the Polish village of Laz close to the river, mentioned it appears like “an industrial waste canal”.
Like many others, he had been anticipating an environmental catastrophe.
“The Oder was a time bomb. We knew very well that numerous industrial enterprises in Silesia were pouring their wastewater directly into it,” he mentioned.
Feodorowicz mentioned environmental checks are carried out however they don’t seem to be working effectively.
“Uncontrolled pollution led to a chain of events that it is impossible to comprehend,” mentioned Grzegorz Gabrys, head of the zoology division on the University of Zielona Gora in Poland.
“Apart from the fish, we have seen the death of other filtering organisms such as clams. If all these organisms have disappeared from the ecosystem, the consequences of this catastrophe could play out over a period of many years,” he mentioned.
Gabrys criticized Poland’s basic strategy to defending its waterways.
“Many people consider rivers part of the technical infrastructure,” he mentioned.
Paraphrasing former US president Bill Clinton’s well-known phrase, he added: “It’s nature, stupid!”
© 2022 AFP
Dead fish and despair on the banks of the Oder (2022, August 27)
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