Prosecutors to look into state authorities' response to Odra river crisis

Mateusz Marek/PAP

The reaction of the Polish authorities to the ecological catastrophe on the River Odra will be the subject of criminal proceedings by the country's prosecutor's office, Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister, announced on Wednesday.

Fishermen first spotted dead fish in waters near Olawa, in the south-western Lower Silesia province, about 400 kilometres away from the sea, on 25 July.

The Regional Environmental Protection Inspectorate in the southwestern city of Wroclaw has been investigating the problem since the first reports were received.

On August 3, Malgorzata Tracz, an MP from the opposition Green party, alerted local and regional authorities, including Polish Water, the state-owned company in charge of water management in Poland.

By August 11, ten tonnes of dead fish were hauled out of the River Odra. On that day, the defence minister, Mariusz Blaszczak called in troops to "help remove pollutants from the river."

A day later, Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister, fired the CEO of Polish Waters, and the main inspector for environmental protection for their poor response to the Odra river crisis.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Ziobro said that "the right or wrong reaction of the state authorities in the case of the River Odra will be the subject of criminal proceedings conducted by the prosecutor's office."

He added that the conduct of certain officials in this situation will be analysed.

Asked about possible "mistakes of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki", Ziobro said that "we do not consider mistakes, we are only talking about a certain pressure in which various people found themselves."

"A cool assessment of this case requires a fair and honest assessment of the actions and commitment or omission of each of the officials," he said.

"If it is true, as deputy minister (of climate and environment Jacek - PAP) Ozdoba says, that in this case the only authority that took action was the Chief Inspector of Environmental Protection - and here he is the main victim, in a political sense, of this situation - then I think this matter requires further follow-up, so that the consequences will be drawn from those who actually abandoned their duties," Ziobro added.

In his view, "the reaction of certain authorities at the regional level should have been faster."