Violating the ban on fencing the shores of lakes and rivers and prohibiting or preventing people from walking through an area 1.5 meters from the shoreline is an offense punishable by a fine of up to 5,000. PLN,” according to the Water Law. But is this ban respected and its provisions enforced? That’s what the NIK auditors checked.
In Poland, lakes, like rivers, are the property of the State Treasury, in other words, they are public property, and everyone has the right to use them. The owner of a property that borders a lake or river must not obstruct anyone’s access to the water. This is especially important when emergency services need to intervene or in a situation that we don’t pay much attention to – when samples need to be taken for water quality testing.
The tendency observed for years by scientists and researchers to improperly develop lake shores and prevent access to them has been confirmed by NIK inspectors: Many property owners adjacent to the shoreline, not wanting the presence of others on their property, fence off access to the lake, often covering significant areas of SP-owned land, then erects illegal water facilities (piers, marinas, etc.) on these lands. In most cases, this involves the transformation and devastation of the shoreline and the destruction of coastal flora and fauna – reads the report.
The authority responsible for water management in Poland is the Minister, who oversees Polish Water, which in turn performs ownership supervision of the waters. The audit of the management of lakes that are public waters was carried out by the NIK at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Polish Waters: KZGW, five regional water management boards, five basin boards and five water supervisors. The audit covered the period from January 1, 2019. Through June 30, 2022.
Conclusions of the NIK audit
In view of the results of the audit, in order to improve the efficiency of the implementation of tasks related to the management of lakes that are public waters, the NIK requests the Minister of Infrastructure and the President of the Polish Water Authority to:
- Take steps to introduce provisions in the Water Law to allow basin boards and water supervisors to exercise control over water management;
- Ensuring effective supervision of the proper management by the Polish Waterways of lakes constituting public waters, among other things. by increasing the number of inspections performed on illegal piers and compliance with the ban on fencing property within 1.5 meters of the shoreline;
- Immediately finalize the work related to the acquisition of ownership rights from the Marshals over all lakes that are public waters;
- The introduction of rules for determining the length of piers and their elements in Polish waters;
- Take measures to adjust the staffing of the organizational units of the Polish Water Authority to the scope of the tasks performed;
- Ensure that Water Board employees use their authority to impose fines by way of a criminal fine (resulting from Article 341(1)(4) of the Water Law) during water management inspections.
What is the shoreline?
In most cases, we have no way of telling exactly where the 1.5-meter-wide strip from the shoreline goes, because we don’t know what its location is. Indication of the shoreline is sometimes problematic, as the definition in the Water Law is “the edge of the bank or the line of permanent grass growth or the line that is determined according to the average water level of at least the last 10 years.” At the same time, it is worth noting that the shoreline is subject to natural transformations, and when we are not sure we should call a surveyor, which in practice is sporadic.
Is the ban on coastal fencing unconditional?
The ban on fencing the banks of rivers and lakes is not unconditional, but applies to exceptional cases. It does not apply to protective zones of water intakes, breeding concessions and areas reserved for defense and national security.
Who is responsible for studying the condition of the lakes?
The Inspectorate for Environmental Protection is responsible for studying and assessing the condition of lakes in Poland, as part of state environmental monitoring. Overseeing the coordination of activities in this area is the GIOŚ. We have written about the complexity of the evaluation process itself in previous issues ofWater Matters. Recall that the basis for determining the ecological status of lakes is the results of monitoring of biological elements. The question of what the current state of the country’s lakes is will be answered in the next issue.