Fears for the future after mass fish deaths in Poland’s Oder River According to Reuters


© Reuters. Dead fish from the Oder River believed to have been contaminated with water as the cause of the mass fish deaths, in the village of Widuchowa, Poland August 17, 2022. REUTERS/Kuba Stezycki


By Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska and Kuba Stezycki

WIDUCHOWA, Poland (Reuters) – When thousands of fish died near the banks of the Oder River in the village of Widuchowa in western Poland on August 11, locals realized an ecological disaster began in late July in southwest of the country. towards the Baltic Sea.

As residents of Widhowa searched for tools to retrieve lifeless bodies from the river, the government began responding to a crisis that many scientists say has come too late.

Pawel Wrobel, mayor of Widuchowa, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the town where the dead fish was first discovered. “I never imagined going through such a disaster, that’s what you see in disaster movies.”

With the help of the local community, he collected dozens of hoes, used to pick up potatoes and dead fish in the river, which marks part of the Polish-German border.

“We didn’t know how and what tools to use, we learned from our mistakes,” Wrobel said.

On August 12, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki fired the head of Poland’s national water authority and the head of the environmental inspector general, saying their institutions should have responded sooner. .

Despite numerous tests of fish and water samples conducted by Polish and foreign laboratories, and a reward of 1 million zlotys (US$211,775) for information on the source of contamination, it remains unclear what poisoned the Oder, Poland’s second largest river.

Climate ministry spokesman Aleksander Brzozka said: “We are focused on stopping what is happening, on the other hand, figuring out the reasons for this.

Researchers in Germany and the Polish climate ministry have shown that overgrowth of toxic algae is a possible cause of mass mortality.

“The most likely hypothesis is that it is a combination of many natural factors,” said Brzozka.


Locals told Reuters that firefighters and territorial guards deployed by the government to retrieve tons of dead fish were unprepared for what awaited them in the river.

According to villagers, the stench around the waters was so strong that most of them vomited during the work.

Local businesses are also affected.

When Piotr Bugaj, a passionate fisherman and owner of boats, a skiff and rental rooms on board the Oder heard what was coming, he knew it was time to take a break from work. its business.

He asked his guests from the Czech Republic to leave the water and cancel all future bookings from customers, who flock to Widhowa from all over Europe because of its wildlife and diverse populations of large fish. like catfish and tilapia.

“If such a tragedy could happen, I’d really like to know that only what’s on the surface has died, not anymore. But right now, no one has checked what’s currently at the bottom of the river,” he said. speak.

The government has promised support to those affected by the crisis.

Piotr Piznal, a local activist, has dedicated her life to photographing the wildlife around Oder. For the past week, he’s been documenting the disaster.

“It’s hard because, in fact, the world we’ve been observing and photographing with my friend over the past few years is disappearing,” he said. “I think after what happened in Oder, it will take years to rebuild the ecosystem… It will all have to be reborn to function the way it has been until now.”

Meanwhile, the residents of Widhowa fear and uncertainty will prevail.

“The dead fish warned us that something was wrong,” said Sylwia Palasz-Wrobel, the wife of the mayor of Widuchowa, standing next to her husband on the smelly Oder coast. “When the fish runs out, who will notify us the next time a disaster strikes? We want to know who is responsible for this.” (1 dollar = 4,7220 zlotys)

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