Farmers who have meadows in the area – protected under the Natura 200 network – Bagna Wizna (Podlaskie voivodeship) cannot clear or deepen drainage ditches. The appeal that they submitted to the General Directorate for Environmental Protection in Warsaw did not help, and in the spring there was still water in the meadows. Perhaps the problem can be solved thanks to the awaited expert opinion, which is to indicate the model of water management in this area.
“Stop eco-terrorists” or “You are destroying our farms, our future”. Farmers from the area of Wizna, who protested in April in front of the seat of the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection in Białystok, had banners with such slogans. The farmers were outraged because on November 27, the Regional Directorate of Environmental Protection banned the clearing and dredging of drainage ditches located next to their meadows.
The meadows are located in Bagna Wizna. That is, an area of natural value, extending over about 130 square kilometers, protected under the Natura 2000 network. There are such birds as aquatic warbler, great snipe, curlew and ruff.
Environmentalists: Farmers have dredged the ditches, from about 30 centimeters to one meter
The plan of protective tasks for this area assumes that the drainage ditches may only undergo current maintenance. And as representatives of environmental organizations noted, in the spring of last year, farmers deepened them significantly – from about 30 centimeters to one meter. As the Dzika Polska Foundation informed on its Facebook profile, the excavators worked even when “Biebrza National Park was on fire next to it due to the drought”.
– We are of course aware that Bagno Wizna is located several kilometers from the park and the fire had nothing to do with clearing the ditches in Bagna Wizna. The spring of 2020 was dry, however, and the water level was so dramatically low that this work should definitely not be done at that time. And certainly not to dig to such a depth – says Adam Bohdan from the Dzika Polska Foundation.
Farmers appealed against the RDOŚ decision after the deadline
Environmental organizations (apart from Dzika Polska, also the Center for the Protection of Wetlands, the Dubelt Nature Society and the Foundation for Biebrza) notified the RDOŚ about the case. In November, she issued the aforementioned ban.
Farmers (and there were 160 of them) appealed against this decision to the General Directorate for Environmental Protection in Warsaw. However, the latter refused to annul the decision of the RDEP.
– Farmers appealed against our decision later than they had the right to do so. Therefore, the ban on clearing and deepening the drainage ditches is still in force – says Beata Bezubik, Regional Director of Environmental Protection in Białystok.
Chairman of the Chamber of Agriculture: farmers live here on milk and cows
The chairman of the County Chamber of Agriculture in Zambrów, Wojciech Łuba, comments that farmers had been clearing ditches for many years and nobody was bothered by it. – Problems began when environmentalists became interested in the matter. And yet the local farmers live off milk and cows. No mower will enter here if there is constant water in the meadows. As it was also this spring – he says.
He adds that the Śliwówka river flows in that area, which is connected to the drainage ditches and is the catchment area of the S8 route.
– Once upon a time its trough was about three meters wide. Currently, there is not even a metro. With greater rainfall, such as this year, this river is not able to drain away larger amounts of water – explains our interlocutor.
RDOŚ: up to 30 centimeters of mud can be collected.
He sees his only hope in the assurances made by Beata Bezubik at the meeting that took place shortly after the farmers picket in April.
– We have heard that ditches can be dug to a depth of up to 30 centimeters and there is no need to obtain any permits for such works – says Wojciech Łuba.
Beata Bezubik explains that it is only about current maintenance.
– And this can be done once a year or once every two years. Up to 30 centimeters of mud can be collected as part of regular maintenance. It does not mean, however, that the ditches can be deepened and cleared. Of course, they can also be brimmed – he explains.
Wojciech Łuba comments that a depth of up to 30 centimeters could be sufficient if the reservoirs belonging to Polish Waters were also open.
– And if they were cleaned this year, they were not desilted. Polish Waters must also have the RDOŚ approval to carry out such works, says Łuba.
Polish Waters will ask the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection for permission to desludge reservoirs
Agnieszka Giełażyn-Sasimowicz, spokeswoman for the Regional Water Management Board in Białystok, says that desludging works on the Śliwówka and Mężynianka rivers – belonging to Polish Waters – are planned for next year. Provided the RDEP agrees to carry out such works.
– Polish Waters in the coming days will apply to RDOŚ for consent – he emphasizes.
He adds that the slopes and the bottom of the rivers and supply and drainage channels have been dug over the entire territory of the Polish Waters, except for the estuary sections of the two drainage channels. – For these fragments, we received a decision from RDOŚ prohibiting the execution of these works – emphasizes Agnieszka Giełażyn-Sasimowicz.
The expertise will answer the question of where to install the valves
The current plan of protective tasks for Bagna Wizna is valid until January 7, 2024. However, by October next year, an expert opinion on the development of a water management model in this area, commissioned by RDOŚ, is to be ready.
– We hope that it will propose solutions that will reconcile the needs of nature protection with the needs of farmers – comments Beata Bezubik.
Adam Bohdan, quoted at the outset, also hopes to do so. – In practice, the expertise is to provide an answer to which places valves should be installed in the ditches. They would be opened when there was water on the meadows, and closed in the event of drought. Money for the construction of such a valve system can be obtained from EU funds. Farmers could apply to numerous organizations that raise such funds on a daily basis and write a joint project – he says.
Farmer: once Bagno Wizna was called Podlasie Venice
As Waldemar Kalinowski, a farmer from the village of Jawory comments, the matter is not as simple as it seems.
– The area in question covers two thirds of the area of the Rutki-Kossaki commune. Hundreds of farmers farm hundreds of meadows, sometimes not too large. Even if such a valve system were created – which of course would be very costly – someone would have to coordinate it all and ensure that the valves are properly used. Not every farmer has knowledge in this area, he explains.
Nevertheless, she adds that the valves could work. – As it was, for example, in the 70s of the last century, when there was a state-owned farm here. At that time, Bagno Wizna was called the Venice of Podlasie. Time and many years of neglect, however, did their job. The old locks are no longer usable, and due to the fact that we are forbidden to clear the ditches, we are in fact Venice. Only flooded with water – he says bitterly.
Bagno Wizna is located in Zambrów County
Main photo source: Waldemar Kalinowski