Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Saving the Rospuda Valley

Małgorzata Górska / Credit: John Antonelli

Last week, I’ve interviewed Malgorzata Górska, a Polish environmentalist who managed to save one of Europe’s last remaining great wildernesses from a giant motorway project.

She has won the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest prize for grassroots environmental activism, for her campaign to save Poland’s Rospuda Valley. I’ve interviewed her in London on her way to San Francisco to receive the prize.

With its pristine primeval forest, ancient intact peat bogs and wetlands, the Rospuda Valley in North Eastern Poland serve as flora and fauna reservoirs for the rest of Europe. It is home to lynx, wolves, otters, elk, eagles and 20 other endangered bird species. Scientists say the area gives a pretty good idea of what Europe must have looked centuries ago

Yet, as Poland began to grow economically, developers in 1996 began plans to route one of Europe’s most ambitious highway projects, the Via Baltica Expressway, directly through the Rospuda Valley, linking Helsinki to Warsaw.

Górska, a conservationist with the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds (OTOP), launched a campaign with a coalition of activists, scientists and NGOs to fight the road project, propose alternative routes and raise public awareness.

When their efforts to persuade their government failed, Górska and her coalition harnessed European Union legislation to help save the Rospuda Valley.

This led to the first ever successful intervention by the EU to obtain an order from the European Court to stop a member state from breaching environmental regulations and damaging a protected site. This court ruling now has the potential to strengthen the legal framework for EU environmental regulations across Europe.

I’ve written an article for the Economist's paper/webiste European Voice about Górska, which was published yesterday. Read it here.

No comments:

Post a Comment