Representatives from Germany and Poland met on Tuesday at a conference in Schwedt, Brandenburg. For several hours, politicians, local government officials, environmentalists and scientists discussed the future of the Oder River. The main issues were how to prevent another ecological disaster. Who was missing? According to the Union of the Chambers of the Oder and Elbe – one party with a strong interest in keeping the Oder clean and safe.
– Businesses are not invited to discuss the future of the Oder. In August and September 2022, representatives of the catering, hotel and tourism sectors, as well as fishing and fisheries, were hit hard. Many of them suffered massive financial losses. Today, entrepreneurs on their own have to get information about whether the Oder is safe or not,” says Hanna Mojsiuk, President of the Union of Oder and Elbe Chambers.
The Union of Oder and Elbe Chambers wants to participate in the discussion
The discussion with the participation of the German Minister of the Environment Steffi Lemke or the West Pomeranian Voivode Zbigniew Bogucki is of course a positive initiative – discussions at governmental, municipal, scientific and economic level, after the Oder catastrophe of 2022, should take place at least quarterly. As the Union of Oder and Elbe Chambers, we express our sadness and disappointment that entrepreneurs were not invited to the conversation.
– Entrepreneurs have a lot to say about the Oder. The tourist season in Western Pomerania is just beginning. Tourism based on the river has been in great demand in recent years. Canoeing, agrotourism farms, the use of the river as a place to relax, but also to fish. The catastrophe on the Oder River shook this activity a year ago. Now entrepreneurs are unsure whether to start the season or whether they will have to suspend their activities and incur costs again in a moment,” says Hanna Mojsiuk, President of the Union of Oder and Elbe Chambers and President of the Northern Chamber of Commerce.
– Businesses should participate in such meetings so that they know what the situation is like, what the risks are, what preventive measures are in place and what the likelihood of a disaster happening again is. There is great uncertainty now, and this is a factor generating the withdrawal of companies from the river,” says Hanna Mojsiuk.
The Union of Chambers of the Oder and Elbe declares its willingness to participate in such events and to actively meet with the scientific and local government community in both Poland and Germany.
Entrepreneurs: monitoring is not enough
During the meeting in Germany, there was talk about how the river is being monitored and the threat of a repeat of the environmental disaster of 2022.
– Everyone agrees that a lot depends on the natural conditions in the river: whether there will be a drought, whether there will be high temperatures, how high the water level in the river will be. However, there is no agreement between the Polish and German sides on how much industrial discharges into the river should be reduced, how the salinity of the river should be reduced and whether regulation of the Oder should be stopped, says Hanna Mojsiuk.
– Protecting the purity of the Oder should be a priority. Reducing the salinity of the river is unfortunately not at a satisfactory level. We hear a lot about monitoring, but little about what concrete steps have been taken related to, for example, reducing chemical discharges into the river. Monitoring informs us of the threat, but will it be able to prevent it? This is our primary concern,” adds the president of the Union of Oder and Elbe Chambers.
Governor Zbigniew Bogucki suggested creating a German-Polish crisis management team.
– This is a good idea, but we expect that this time the voice of the entrepreneurs will be taken into account,” says Hanna Mojsiuk.