NIK has audited the flood control activities of the Polish Water Authority in Zulawy. Beavers also guilty


Today, the NIK presented the results of an audit of the Polish Water Authority’s flood control activities in Żuławy. According to the Supreme Audit Office, although the activities of the Polish Water Authority have contributed to increasing the efficiency of the flood protection system, the level of its effectiveness is still insufficient. According to the Chamber’s assessment, there is a lack of adequate investment, which increases the risk of a disaster in the Zulawy and Gdansk metropolitan area. Beavers are also a problem. Why?

Zulawy Wislane

Żuławy Wiślane is part of the Gdańsk Coast and occupies the delta area of the Vistula River, located between the Vistula Spit to the north, the Elbląg Hills to the east, and the Kashubian and Ilawa Lake Districts to the west and south. Administratively, the Zulawy area is located within the Pomeranian and Warmian-Masurian provinces. The Vistula Delta, together with Zulawy, occupies less than 1 percent. country’s surface area. So why is it important to protect them from flooding? The uniqueness of the area is evidenced by its depressed and depressional location and heavily altered, among other things. Through the construction of embankments and a series of pumping stations, the hydrographic network. Discontinuing the drainage of the Zulawy threatens to flood parts of the area and cause huge economic losses. In addition, high water on the Vistula is a cyclic, natural condition, resulting in a flood alert at least once a year.

Threat from Russia

Today’s NIK press conference addressed the issue of Zulawy’s security due to its location near the Russian border and the need to protect the area’s critical infrastructure. It’s not hard to imagine a repeat of the Novaya Kakhovka dam disaster in Ukraine. It should be emphasized that key industrial plants for the Lower Vistula region operate in Zulawy – including the following. PKN Orlen Group’s Gdansk refinery, Grupa Azoty Fosfory Sp. z o.o. or Alstom Power plants. Zulawy is also a region heavily used for agriculture (due to its fertile soils) and tourism: The Teutonic Castle in Malbork, the Main and Lower Town in Gdansk, the Old Town and Granary Island in Elblag attract numerous visitors.

Why, according to the NIK, are beavers interfering with the region’s flood protection?

The population of the European beaver in Poland has increased more than fivefold since 2020. and counts about 150,000. individuals (2023). The local and even regional impact of these animals on changes in water relations is increasing. Beaver dams block and slow the movement of water, contributing to the formation of reservoirs and floodplains with increased retention of water, sediment and nutrients. In doing so, they slow down the flow and regulate hydrological conditions, storing resources during periods of high levels and releasing them during drought. These beneficial wildlife, trying to cope with a heavily flooded area, are committing devastation.

According to the NIK report, the growing population of this species, which is destroying thę flood control infrastructure in the Zulawy, remains an important problem to be solved. A total of nearly PLN 9 million was spent on the removal of burrows in floodwalls and dams built by these animals during the period under review. At the time, 17 orders and decisions of the Regional Directorate of Environmental Protection from Elblag and Gdansk were in force, which allowed certain activities in relation to the European beaver in Żuławy, consisting of, among other things. on intentionally frightening or disturbing individuals of the species, the complete destruction or removal of burrows created by its existence, and the destruction of habitats or refuges that are areas of breeding, rearing of young, resting, migration and foraging.

Conclusions of the NIK audit

The NIK concluded that improvements in the effectiveness of flood protection in Zulawy have been achieved through the implementation of key investments. As a result, the icebreaker fleet on the Lower Vistula has been reinforced with four new units, increasing winter protection against flash floods. Protection against storm flooding in the Vistula Lagoon area, including in Nowy Dwór Gdański, has also been improved through the installation of new storm gates and the reconstruction of 19 spurs on the Vistula. Despite these investments, flood risks remain, especially in the context of the lack of funding for 89 of the 95 flood protection projects totaling more than PLN 1 billion.

Failure to implement these measures, including the restoration of spurs, could exacerbate flood risks. In addition, it was found that the Catchment Boards effectively managed the maintenance of water infrastructure, ensuring its good technical condition. The Supreme Audit Institution has criticized, among other things. Lack of inspection of the technical condition of the spurs in the Zulawy and the operation of pump stations without the appropriate permits. Waterways has taken steps to ensure flood protection in Zulawy, taking into account favorable climatic conditions that have lowered the need for icebreaker intervention. The tasks of the Regional Water Management Board in shaping the spatial development of areas of special flood risk were carried out properly.

Marian Banaś, President of the NIK, sums up the audit this way:

Flood protection for the Vistula Zulawy is being carried out on an increasing scale, but the region is still not safe. A number of key investments are pending, and they are being held up due to a lack of funding. Granted limits result in taking those activities for which there is enough money, rather than those that are most urgent. Meanwhile, the lack of investment increases the risk of disaster in the Zulawy and the Gdansk metropolitan area. A separate problem is the growing habitat of European beavers, which are under species protection in the area and destroy flood control infrastructure. The chamber requests that efforts be stepped up to eliminate current and future damage while maintaining the protective status of these animals.

NIK recommendations

The Supreme Audit Institution requests the Minister of Infrastructure to:

  1. Take effective measureś to reduce flood risks in the Zulawy, including. By providing Polish Water with funding for the most essential tasks;
  2. Implement effective solutionś in cooperation with the Minister of Climate and Environment to reduce the extent of damage caused by European beavers to the flood control infrastructure of the Zulawy, with conservation of the species;

while to the Polish Water Authority for:

  1. Continue efforts to promptly submit applications to the relevant governors for the adoption of water maintenance plans covering the Zulawy area;
  2. Strengthening oversight of the activities̨ of field organizational units of the Polish Waters, which are directly responsible for flood protection of the Żuławy River, in terms of the requirement to have current water permits for specific water use.

Używamy plików cookie, aby zapewnić najlepszą jakość korzystania z Internetu. Zgadzając się, zgadzasz się na użycie plików cookie zgodnie z naszą polityką plików cookie.

Close Popup
Privacy Settings saved!
Ustawienie prywatności

Kiedy odwiedzasz dowolną witrynę internetową, może ona przechowywać lub pobierać informacje w Twojej przeglądarce, głównie w formie plików cookie. Tutaj możesz kontrolować swoje osobiste usługi cookie.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

Technical Cookies
In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wordpress_logged_in_
  • wordpress_sec

For perfomance reasons we use Cloudflare as a CDN network. This saves a cookie "__cfduid" to apply security settings on a per-client basis. This cookie is strictly necessary for Cloudflare's security features and cannot be turned off.
  • __cfduid