NewsThe environmental catastrophe on the Oder continues to pose...

The environmental catastrophe on the Oder continues to pose a mystery

Created: 08/21/2022 Updated: 8/21/2022 1:36 p.m

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The reasons for the massive fish deaths in the Oder are still unclear. © Patrick Pleul/dpa

The cause of the fish kill on the Oder is still unclear. So far, helpers have recovered around 200 tons of dead fish. And the environmental catastrophe is increasingly burdening German-Polish relations.

Potsdam/Warsaw – While the extent of the fish deaths on the Oder is becoming increasingly clear, further upsets in German-Polish relations became apparent over the weekend.

In connection with an investigation result from Brandenburg, the Polish Environment Minister explained that there were false reports in Germany. Poland’s national conservative PiS government is currently under pressure because Polish authorities were hesitant to respond to the first indications of the fish kill.

Excessive levels of pesticides were measured

By Saturday, around 200 tons of dead fish had been collected in Poland and Germany. The Polish fire brigade put the amount on Saturday at 158 tons. According to an earlier report by the Ministry of the Environment, there were at least 36 tons in Brandenburg. According to the Ministry of the Interior in Warsaw, more than 3,000 firefighters, more than 2,000 police officers and 1,300 soldiers were deployed in Poland to recover the carcasses.

Why the fish died was still unclear on Sunday. When looking for possible causes, German authorities also came across excessive pesticide levels. Brandenburg’s Environment Ministry announced that samples taken at the Frankfurt (Oder) measuring point between August 7th and 9th found high concentrations of a pesticide containing the active ingredient 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. However, it can be assumed that the detected dose was not immediately fatal to fish. The active ingredient is used, for example, to combat weeds. The “Tagesspiegel” had first reported on it.

The Ministry continues to assume that the environmental disaster has several causes. The excessive concentration of the pesticide over several days certainly had an impact on animals, plants and microorganisms. It is possible that the herbicide was present in even higher concentrations in the upper reaches of the Oder and was already heavily diluted at the Frankfurt (Oder) measuring point, it said.

Alleged fake news from Germany

The Polish government now spoke of false reports from Germany. “Attention, another fake news is being spread in Germany!!! pesticides and herbicides. In Poland, the substance was tested and found to be below the limit of quantification, ie with no effects on fish or other animals and no link to fish kills,” Environment Minister Anna Moskwa wrote on Twitter on Saturday evening. The substances were not detected in fish, Moskva said in another tweet, “An unjustified attack on agriculture. First industry, now agriculture? What’s next?”

In Germany it was criticized that Polish authorities had not complied with the internationally agreed information chains. Representatives of the PiS repeatedly responded with anti-German tones.

Meanwhile, a statement by the regional head of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship, Zbiegniew Bogucki, gave some hope. Accordingly, living fish can be seen again. “Where we recovered tons of dead fish a few days ago, live fish have now appeared,” Bogucki wrote on Twitter on Saturday. However, due to a lack of oxygen in the water, many fish are on the verge of suffocation and swim close to the surface. The politician posted a video showing this. Bogucki wrote in another tweet that he had contacted the local fire brigade to try to aerate the water with pumps.

Citizens’ initiative “Save oder die” with art campaign

The mass death of fish in the border river Oder became known on the German side on August 9th. Finding the cause is difficult. Scientists say a toxic species of algae could be a factor in fish kills. Various other substances are also being studied.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania announced on Friday that no abnormalities had been found when examining samples in the German part of the Szczecin Lagoon, into which the Oder flows.

Meanwhile, the newly founded citizens’ initiative “Save oder die” drew attention to the mass deaths of fish in the Oder with an art event. On Saturday evening, the Oder oxbow lake on the banks of the village of Kienitz. The citizens’ initiative calls for a human chain on the Oder for September 4th. Residents, school classes and other citizens should come to a big concert on the river with musical instruments. dpa

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