Winds of good change – what plans does the new director of
IMGW-PIB have?


We inevitably associate the Institute of Meteorology and Water Management National Research Institute with weather forecasting. And rightly so, since informing the public about atmospheric conditions, both meteorological and hydrological, is one of the Institute’s goals. However, IMGW-PIB is not only about forecasts, it is also a huge research and scientific potential, which has recently been managed by a new director – Robert Czerniawski. Time will tell how the scientist will cope with running such a large unit. Apparently, the climate is favorable, so it’s worth talking about.

Agnieszka Hobot: How do you feel about your new role? Does looking from the inside at such a large institution as IMGW-PIB change anything in your views of its tasks and operations?

Robert Czerniawski: This is a very different entity from the University of Szczecin, where I still work. The outlook on the environment and on water is also a little different, more pragmatic and less philosophical. Here it is more zero-one: the forecast is changing, it will be better or worse. At the university, we rather consider the problem philosophically, looking for some cause-and-effect relationships. I will say frankly that I feel good in the new place.

I think I bring a different perspective on how climate change can be considered. I can also see that employees want to discuss, not close to the forecast itself, to dry information. They want to contribute their insights, develop themselves scientifically. The institute, by its very name, is supposed to seek to clarify certain problems, which makes it a scientific entity. I like this commitment and the initiatives taken very much, and I hope that this will take IMGW to a new level in research issues.

A.H.: IMGW-PIB is associated by most people with weather forecasts, some with river levels, but that’s not all. What else does the Institute do that is little talked about?

R.C.: I’m still learning how to function in a new place, getting to know people and talking to them about what they do. The operational program models and systems used at the Institute are something we often dream of in universities. They have enormous untapped scientific potential. They provide the opportunity to model virtually all phenomena occurring in climate and hydrology. This can be extended to ecology as well. This is a gap that perhaps we could fill with the cooperation of specialists in this field from other units.

According to the recipient, the Institute focuses on forecasts, possibly sharing opinions. Outwardly, however, there is no fairly pronounced scientific activity in hydrology, climatology and meteorology. The topic is overlooked because it is usually of no interest to the layperson. And this is quite a substantial part of the Institute’s work. It is a shame that it is so often passed over in silence. However, I see potential for change, as many employees are showing interest not only in acquiring and reporting weather information, but also in opportunities for research and scientific development.

What I was still very interested in was the educational activities of the Institute. It is quite rich, and classes are held all over the country. Interestingly, the audience is not only schools, but also older people, and they are the ones who very often have heated and substantive discussions, even on the Internet, about weather forecasting methods.

The Institute is building very modern models and equipment to measure hydrology, precipitation or wind strength, but I am still at the beginning of my journey at IMGW. For now, I am getting to know the specialists I have the pleasure of working with and talking to them about what they do. I hope to be able to share my knowledge with them and thus fill a certain scientific gap. I perceive that there is still really a lot to do in this field.

A.H.: You said about this field to be developed. When a new person comes in, a new director, people wonder what changes he will implement. Tell us about the directions of the Institute’s activities under your stewardship in the short and long term.

R.C.: Science for sure. The scientific potential is untapped. I think that too few people, relative to the total number of employees, have had the chance to develop in this direction. They have the desire, and I would like to be able to guarantee the means and freedom to work. Not only in the realm of science, but also in the development of new devices or software. I know from experience that such an approach unleashes enormous amounts of creativity, especially in young people, a sizable group of whom are employed at the Institute.

The truth is that in the past, even from not-so-smart ideas brilliant inventions came out. In 10 years, they, today’s adjuncts and assistants, will be the ones looking for their successors. My dream is that they engage those better than themselves and enjoy their successes, that they know how to appreciate ideas and support their implementation. Only then will the Institute grow. I don’t want to block my colleagues, but only give them the opportunity to work with passion and joy.

A.H.: Now I’m going to ask a little bit about the perspective of a scientist and water conservationist. What changes do you think should occur in water management and governance?

R.C.: The most important thing is to change the perception of the environment and to open up to nature not from the angle of man, but with special attention to its rights. I would like to change the narrative that has been carried out over the past many years. The institute must find itself not only as a forecaster or synoptician, not as an informant, but also as a creator of opinions and conclusions. I would like it to become a platform for discussion, knowledge transfer between different scientific units, independent institutions or social organizations. Since IMGW is not a decision-making entity, it could work well as a “neutral space.”

The mentality and awareness of Poles regarding environmental protection is still at a very low level. It is associated with garbage collection and windmills. The Institute’s employees are able to explain complex phenomena and their consequences for the Earth and for us in simple terms. In my opinion, IMGW is an excellent field for teaching and knowledge transfer.

pic. hunter76/Adobe Stock

A.H.: You said about the lack of public awareness of water conservation and the environment in general, going beyond the Institute. What about water management itself. Waterways announced a green direction in its initiatives. Hence my question. Do you identify with this vision?

R.C.: As much as possible. I will say yes, there is a good wind and you need to make the most of it. Activities carried out to date have not always put the welfare of nature first. I would like to see our activities go first in the direction of non-damage. Where you can or otherwise where you don’t need to – let’s not spoil. Let’s leave the rivers, wetlands and lakes alone. I am not a radical, I am not affiliated with any political party or any environmental or economic organization. For this, I have extensive discussions in many forums, such as. Inland navigation, fishing, fishing, mining, environmental.

People want to talk, they want to learn the truth, they want to act without harming, but unfortunately the number of bad habits, often resulting from ignorance, is striking. Unfortunately, we live in the environment and need to use it. It’s impossible to get away from it. It is not possible to suddenly close a mine to protect the Oder River, because by doing so we will deprive ourselves of an important source of electricity. An example perhaps too trivial, but quite clear. Everything should be approached with reason.

Let’s make the river a river first, only later a waterway, sewage receiver or fishing circuit, not the other way around. It is necessary to secure water for environmental needs. This is the baseline from which we begin the search for the most effective solutions that benefit nature and humans. It is difficult for people to shift their thinking, it is difficult to put the needs of nature above their own. In general, for us at the moment the most important thing is the economy and our standard of living. If we reach a satisfactory level, we feel we can take care of nature. I think this should change, that is, water resources for nature first, then for man. I am confident that this will be realized.

A timely example is Oder. I think it’s a sensible approach to protect it by pushing back the embankments, allowing water to be poured into the floodplain, using elements that can be incorporated into the main channel, developing unused spaces, i.e. damming on existing thresholds, between the lock and the bank. They can be used, for example, for the self-purification of the river. The point is to get out of our stiff thinking, because, as our watercourses show us, it can’t get any worse.

The Oder is one of the most degraded, or perhaps the most degraded river of the larger ones in Europe. A good physicochemical and ecological state would be a progression for her. I’m talking about all this in the context of inland shipping. Poland cannot decide whether to invest in it or not necessarily. And here we return to the beginning of my statement on this issue – let’s first improve the state of the river, the hydrological state of the entire catchment area, and then let’s consider whether and how it can be used for the benefit of the people.

Things are also not going well in fishing areas. A lot can be changed by properly selected stocking or harvesting synchronized with hydrological and nutritional conditions. Environmentalists also often speak out on these issues. They want to protect the vulnerable, but the truth is that the use of rivers cannot be completely abandoned. There are cruise ships, barges or canoes, there are anglers or naturalists taking pictures. They will all continue to use the waters, but the more educated and aware they are, the safer nature will be. The Oder is too big a river to be shut down.

I’ve gone off topic, but I wish IMGW would talk about just such things. We don’t make any decisions on water management issues, but we can create a space for discussion, provide an opinion that other institutions lack the space for.

A.H.: In the context of your knowledge and experience, are we prepared for climate change? In what direction is it heading, as far as Poland is concerned?

R.C.: I don’t even know how we would prepare, how to secure ourselves. For one thing, we live in the vast majority of river floodplains, so we can’t store water in the land we use in such a direct way. On the other hand, we can’t predict what will happen. All we know is that it will get warmer. But what our preparations, security measures should look like – I have no idea. It’s nature, it’s a cyclical process, on a global scale. How to protect yourself from the inevitable? Countries and institutions spend huge amounts of money on prevention and mitigation, but let’s not kid ourselves, it doesn’t change much. I cannot answer this question satisfactorily.

A.H.: On the one hand, I will agree with you. But if we were to make an assumption in which climate change will result in increasingly violent precipitation, increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, increasingly extreme seasons, then we must at least try to adapt to this and carry out adaptation measures, such as increasing retention potential where possible.

R.C.: Assuming that the physical changes that are taking place on Earth right now are inevitable, we will not protect ourselves from them, in the long run. But going back to retention, the only thing that could guarantee us the storage of water from rapid rainfall is the creation of wetlands. There we have the lowest water exchange – 1 to 5 percent. But this involves flooding either forests or land occupied by people for development or agriculture.

Building artificial reservoirs is ineffective, as history has shown, but on the other hand, I don’t think we’re ready yet to sacrifice our land to collect water for future generations. Everything indicates that in order for us to accept something, we must understand why it is necessary. And here we return to education, which I want to make one of the main tasks of the Institute.

A.H. I fully agree, education is the basis for understanding how nature should be treated. Thank you for the interview.

Prof. Ph. Robert Czerniawski, an ecologist of flowing and standing waters, ichthyologist, hydrobiologist and specialist in the transport of organic matter in rivers. His main area of research interest is the impact of anthropogenic transformation in catchments and riverbeds, as well as water pollution on the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and water resources, especially in the context of climate change. Coordinator and contractor of many projects related to the protection of flowing waters from anthropogenic threats. Author of numerous scientific articles, monographs and books, with an established track record in hydrobiology and environmental protection (source:

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