Home WORLD EUROPA “Dead fish everywhere”: fear of environmental disaster in Europe

“Dead fish everywhere”: fear of environmental disaster in Europe

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These shoals of fish streaming belly up on the shores near the eastern German town of Schwedt were likely carried by the current from Poland where the first cases were reported from July 28 by locals and fishermen.

Dead fish float on the surface of a river.

Dead fish float on the surface of the Oder River in Krajnik Dolny, Poland near the German border.

Photo: Reuters/ANNEGRET HILSE

German officials, taken by surprise by their massive arrival, accused the Polish authorities of failing to inform them.

German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke has called for a full investigation to determine the causes of this environmental disaster.

In Poland, the right-wing populist government has come under fire for not reacting sooner.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki assured on Saturday that he had been informedAugust”,”text”:”August 9 or 10″}}”>August 9 or 10 of pollution. It is obvious that I learned this too late.

Initially everyone thought it was just a local problemhe said on his weekly podcast on Friday.

The scale of pollution is very large, large enough to say that the Oder will need whole years to return to its natural state. »

A quote from Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Prime Minister

Standing at the water’s edge, Michel Tautenhahn, deputy head of the Lower Oder Valley National Park, stares in dismay in the direction of the river, which forms a natural border between Poland and Germany.

We are on the German side. We have dead fish everywherehe told AFP.

I’m deeply shocked… I feel like I’m seeing decades of work ruined. […] Water is our lifehe says, adding that a host of other aquatic animals such as mussels have also succumbed.

The fish, it’s just the tip of the iceberghe assures.

Four men standing on the bank of a river observing dead fish.

People look at dead fish on the banks of the Oder.

Photo: Reuters/Cezary Aszkielowicz/AGENCJA WYBO

The Oder has been considered a relatively clean river for many years, supporting around 40 species of fish.

Many fish – some a few centimeters long, others almost 40 centimeters – are now floating lifelessly on the river. Sometimes we see some of them flapping their tails and turning around with difficulty to try to swim.

In search of answers

Authorities believe the fish were likely poisoned.

Their death is atypicalexplains Axel Vogel, Minister of the Environment of the Land of Brandenburg, judging that tons of fish have probably perished already.

Fish kills are often caused by the distortion of oxygen levels when the water level is too low, he explains.

But we have noticed an increase in the oxygen level for several days, which indicates that a foreign substance has been introduced and caused all this. »

A quote from Axel Vogel, Minister of the Environment of the Land of Brandenburg

Tests are underway in Germany to establish the nature of this substance. Authorities have already reported signs of extremely high levels of mercury.

Further preliminary tests released on Friday evening revealed an unusually high salinity level. Other results are expected on the possible presence of heavy metals or mercury.

In Poland, the prosecution has been seized of the case, while indignation is growing in the country. The head of government sacked two water and environmental protection officials on Friday, whom he blamed too slow action.

On Saturday, the Polish police offered a reward of 210,000 euros to find the author of the pollution.

On the banks of the Oder in Germany, Mr. Tautenhahn worries about the future. If it’s mercury, it’s gonna stay there for a long timehe says, recalling that this metal does not disintegrate and could remain for many years in the sediments.

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