Polish canal project on track despite efforts by Russia: gov’t minister

Poland is pressing ahead with preparations to dig a strategic canal to the Baltic Sea even though neighbouring Russia may be trying to block the project, a government minister has said, according to a report.

Polands Maritime Affairs and Inland Navigation Minister Marek Gróbarczyk.

Poland’s Maritime Affairs and Inland Navigation Minister Marek Gróbarczyk.Photo: PAP/Wojtek Jargiło

The project schedule is on track and there are no delays, despite what could be attempts by Russia to lobby against the planned waterway, Poland’s Maritime Affairs and Inland Navigation Minister Marek Gróbarczyk was quoted as saying on Monday.

The Polish government in October inked a huge deal with a consortium of private firms to dig the strategic canal between the Vistula Lagoon and the Bay of Gdańsk, a project hailed as a boon to the nation’s sovereignty.

Under the deal, a Polish-Belgian consortium is expected to build the new waterway for PLN 992 million (EUR 230 million, USD 252 million) by 2022.

Meanwhile, critics have said the project will put an unnecessary strain on public coffers and set Warsaw on a new collision course with Brussels.

Environmental activists have complained to the European Commission against the Polish project, citing concerns over its impact on surrounding natural ecosystems.

Officials in Brussels have said Poland should put the planned project on hold until formally receiving the green light from the EU executive.

But Poland’s Nasz Dziennik daily on Monday cited Gróbarczyk as saying that the supposed ecological threat was “a concocted story” and an attempt to exert political influence to derail the project.

“We have absolute legal compliance when it comes to both Polish and EU law as well as environmental requirements,” Gróbarczyk said, as quoted by Nasz Dziennik.

He also said that the Polish government was keeping Brussels up-to-date on details of the project.

He added there were no reasons to halt work on the canal, with the main contractor already on the construction site and preparing to fence off the area and bring in heavy-duty equipment.

The new canal between the Vistula Lagoon and the Bay of Gdańsk will be around 1.3 kilometres long and five metres deep, officials have said.

It will be built by digging through the Vistula Spit, a narrow strip of land that separates the bay from the lagoon on Polish territory.

The aim is to allow deep-draught vessels to enter Poland’s Elbląg seaport without passing through the Strait of Baltiysk in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave.

The plan to build the canal requires the construction of new water routes, an artificial island and civil engineering and road infrastructure.

Officials have estimated the total cost of the project at almost PLN 2 billion.

Poland’s conservative leader Jarosław Kaczyński said in October last year that the planned new canal near the Russian border would help enhance his country’s military as well as economic sovereignty. 

Kaczyński, who heads Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, said in September last year that the plan to build the canal showed that Russia, Poland’s former communist-era overlord, could no longer dictate to Warsaw what to do.

(gs/pk)

Source: niezalezna.pl, naszdziennik.pl

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