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Ecological disaster on the Oder river causes mass fish die-off

Thousands of dead fish have been washed up on the banks of the Oder river running on the border of Poland and Germany. The cause of the mass die-off is still unknown, but both governments speak about an ecological disaster. Authorities are now waiting for the results of toxicology studies.

Last week, at least ten tonnes of dead fish were washed up on the shores of the Oder river which runs from Czechia to the border between Poland and Germany before flowing into the Baltic Sea. The Oder represents one of the most important ecological corridors in Central Europe for species migration and connection between distant areas. It is also one of the last rivers in Europe through which fish and other animals can travel more than 500 km barrier-free to the sea.

Source: Save Oder

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday that that government is doing everything possible to minimize the effects of the contamination and its impact on the ecosystem. However, he admitted that the reaction of the responsible authorities was slow and fired the head of Polish Waters, the state-owned company in charge of water management in Poland, and the head of the Environmental Protection Inspectorate.

Anna Moskwa, Poland’s minister of climate and environment, said on Saturday after a ministerial meeting between Poland and Germany that so far 150 water samples have been collected but none of the studies have confirmed the presence of toxic substances. Laboratory tests detected high levels of salinity in samples but ruled out mercury poisoning. Ms Moskwa added that samples will be tested for 300 potential substances, now they are being tested for pesticides.

Germany’s environment minister said the mass die-off of fish in the Oder River is an ecological catastrophe. German authorities also noted that they were not alerted quickly enough and that communications between the two countries should be improved.

The website of Polish Waters says that masses of dead fish were first spotted floating in the Oder near the southwestern city of Oława in late July. The scale of the die-offs is still being determined, according to the last updates of Polish Waters so far ten tons of dead fish were washed on the shores of Oder.

Unfortunately, this is still just the beginning of environmental losses, warned WWF Poland asking for an objective assessment of the consequences of the incident by independent experts, not politicians. Together with other stakeholders WWF Poland also urged a revitalization plan for the Oder, at the expense of those who poisoned the river and the state that was unable to prevent it.

“Natural rivers and their valleys not only play a significant role in protecting against floods and droughts but also increase the water purification capacity and the survival chances of aquatic organisms in the event of chemical contamination,” said Krzysztof Smolnicki, president of the Eco-Development Foundation adding that money should be channelled into restoring the river for the development and protection of local communities.

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