Environmentalists Protest Plans for Highway Across Rare Reat Bog in Poland
WARSAW Poland -- Hundreds of environmentalists on Sunday protested the planned construction of a highway that would cross one of Europe's rare peat bogs.
Polish authorities have approved plans to construct a section of the Via Baltica highway, linking Poland to Finland, that would cross a protected peat bog area off the Rospuda River in the northeast of the country.
The decision, approved Feb. 9, violates a European program that protects rare ecological environments. The European Union's executive office has demanded an explanation from Warsaw and threatened sanctions if the project goes ahead.
The government recently replied to the European Commission, saying that delaying the construction would threaten Polish plans to build a badly needed network of highways.
Holding banners that read "The Government or Nature -- The Choice is Yours," and "Hands off Rospuda," some 100 protesters gathered near one of the presidential residences, the Belvedere, in downtown Warsaw. They also gathered signatures for a protest letter to the government arguing the highway should bypass Rospuda.
Similar protests were held in Szczecin and Gdansk, on the Baltic coast, and in the southern city of Krakow.
The environmentalists argue that the presence of heavy construction equipment and the planting of support pillars will destroy dozens of rare plants and animals found only in the bog.
On Sunday, Environment Minister Jan Szyszko was to meet opponents and supporters of the highway gathered in the Rospuda Valley, where Greenpeace activists have been camping for a week in protest of the planned construction, which is to start in the coming weeks.
Source: Associated Press