Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Poland reverses to spare wetland

Rospuda Valley (Picture: P Malczewski)
The Rospuda valley is a protected wildlife area (Picture: P Malczewski)

Poland has proposed a new route for a disputed motorway to save a pristine wetland, the environment minister says.

"It appears there is an alternative... which is less expensive and just 2km [1.2 miles] longer than the originally planned route," Maciej Nowicki said.

The European Union took legal steps in 2007 to block construction of the road through the Rospuda valley, a protected wildlife area.

Poland will petition the EU to lift the injunction so work can begin next year.

Original plans to have a 16km (10-mile) section of the road cut through the valley on concrete pillars had drawn angry protests from environmental groups, including Greenpeace.


"Piercing the peat bog with pillars was certain to make it disappear," the environment minister told reporters.

The Rospuda Valley - one of Europe's last pristine wetlands - is home to many rare plant and animal species, including eagles, wolves, lynx and wild orchids.

Residents in the north-eastern town of Augustow had demanded a new motorway to ease lorry traffic to and from neighbouring Lithuania that runs through the spa town.

The controversial stretch of motorway is part of the Via Baltica, an EU-backed transport corridor from the Czech Republic to Finland.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said it was a "success" that the new project "took into account both the ecology and the infrastructure needs while respecting our laws and those of the EU".

The country would have faced heavy fines had it ignored the EU court order.

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