Fear for future after mass die-off of fish in Poland's Oder river

Fear for future after mass die-off of fish in Poland
# 20 August 2022 21:42 (UTC +04:00)

As thousands of dead fish neared the banks of the Oder River in the village of Widuchowa in western Poland on Aug. 11, local people realised an ecological disaster that started in late July in the country's south-west was heading towards the Baltic Sea, APA reports citing Reuters.

As Widuchowa's residents searched for tools to remove the lifeless bodies from the the river, the government began crisis response that many scientists say came too late.

"It's been the hardest five days of my life," said Pawel Wrobel, the mayor of Widuchowa, which is around 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the town where dead fish had first been spotted. "I'd never imagined experiencing such a catastrophe, it is something you see in disaster movies."

With the help of the local community, he gathered dozens of pitchforks, used to lift potatoes, to remove dead fish from the river, which marks part of the Polish-German border.

"We don't know how to do it and what tools to use, we learn from our mistakes," Wrobel said.

On Aug. 12, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki fired the head of Poland's national water management authority and the head of the general environmental inspectorate, saying that their institutions should have reacted earlier.

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

"We are focused on, on the one hand, stopping what is happening, and on the other hand, finding the reason for this situation," said climate ministry spokesman Aleksander Brzozka.

Researchers in Germany and Poland's climate ministry have pointed to a large overgrowth of toxic algae as a possible cause for the mass die-off.

"The most likely hypothesis is that it was a combination of various natural factors," said Brzozka.