It is still unclear exactly why thousands of fish died in the Oder, but the causes are “multiple and man-made”, German Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said on Monday.
Lemke met with his Polish counterpart Anna Moskwa in a bid to figure out what caused the death and reach an agreement on the future of the river – something the two sides failed to agree on.
Lemke blamed “the heat, low water levels and artificial discharges”, during a press conference after his meeting with Moskwa. “The regeneration of the Oder must be a priority,” she added.
The two ministers said a full report analyzing the origins of the environmental disaster will be completed by September 30. seafood.
Hundreds of tons of dead fish were collected from the Oder, which in its northern part flows along the German-Polish border.
German local authorities criticized their Polish counterparts for being slow to report the problem and initially accused them of trying to cover it up.
Lemke said on Monday: “If we had been informed more quickly by Poland, we could have reacted more quickly.” She added that a cross-border alert system will be revised and improved. “Future communication should be fast, clear and transparent,” she said.
Massive fish kills have become a political issue for Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, after the opposition accused it of ignoring early warning signals that something was wrong with the river. Polish President Andrzej Duda acknowledged on Monday that the response from the Polish authorities had been “chaotic and belated”.
While restoring the damaged Oder ecosystem is now a priority for Germany and Poland, the two ministers are strongly at odds over the implementation of a 2015 plan to extend infrastructure on the River.
Lemke repeated that she wanted all construction stopped, arguing that “further negative effects on the ecosystem must be avoided.” Moskwa said the river needed work to improve flood protection and transportation, among other reasons.
“The 2015 agreement is valid for both parties. My task is to implement [it]”, said Moskwa, adding that “modernization and maintenance measures must be carried out”. She also argued that there is “no connection between this project and the current situation on the Oder” and therefore “no rational reason to stop work”.
Unlike Poland, Germany has not yet begun to deepen or widen the river.
The European Commission presented a Nature Restoration Regulation in June, which aims to restore 20% of the bloc’s degraded areas by 2030.
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