Augustów Bypass in Rospuda Valley, Poland

Rospuda Valley, one of the best-preserved ecosystems in Europe, was endangered by a plan to build the Bypass to ease the pollution in Augustów.


The Rospuda Valley (Dolina Rospudy)  in Poland is unique pristine peatland and the habitat of many rare animal and plant species. The valley became a protected area and part of the European Natura 2000 network in 2004 when Poland joined the European Union. In 2006, the authorities of Augustów and General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways (GDDKiA) have decided to build the Augustów Bypass right through the Rospuda valley. The bypass is a part of the Via Baltica project that envisages the connection of Helsinki through the Baltic states and Poland with Germany. The Augustów Bypass was suggested to solve the pollution and accidents problems in Augustów provoked by heavy traffic at the S8 expressway and it is also recognised as vital to the economy of the region, one of the poorest in Europe.

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Basic Data
NameAugustów Bypass in Rospuda Valley, Poland
ProvinceAugustów County
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesTransport infrastructure, plant and animal species, peatland ecosystem
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsEvery day 5,000 trucks drive through Augustów.

Rospuda Valley is home to Europe's last wild boar, Eurasian lynx and wolves, white-tailed and lesser-spotted eagles and rare musk orchids.

45 plant species found there are under strict protection, 14 entered into The Polish Red Data Book of Plants, and 3 are in Natura 2000 list.

It was planned that 17km of a new expressway goes through the valley.

The original plan was favored by the government planners for being the shortest, least expensive, and least disruptive option.

An alternative variant omits the Rospuda valley and was estimated to be €17 million cheaper than the original plan.
Project Area (in hectares)1,000
Level of Investment (in USD)150,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population30,000 (population of Augustów affected by pollution from Highway E67)
Start Date1992
End Date2009
Relevant government actorsGeneral Directorate for National Roads and Motorways (GDDKiA)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersWWF Poland, Greenpeace, Birdlife International, CEE Bankwatch, Polish Green Network (PGN), Polish Society for Protection of Birds (OTOP), International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG), European Commission, European Court of Justice, European Environmental Agency, European Parliament, Gazeta Wyborcza, 450 Polish scientists
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
International scientists, EU institutions
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
On-line petition launched by the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza was signed by 150,000 people
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Noise pollution, Air pollution
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseNegotiated alternative solution
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesResidents of the town of Augustow had demanded a new motorway to ease the pollution and accidents problems caused by lorry traffic coming at the S8 expressway connecting Poland with neighboring Lithuania. The opponents protested against the suggested route for the new motorway and have demanded building it on an alternative location that does not go through the environmentally valuable Rospuda Valley. The local community organised counter-protests as they considered the road construction vital to the economy of their region that is one of the poorest in Europe.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The highway has been constructed on an alternative route that completely avoids the Rospuda Valley wilderness area. Rospuda Valley conflict is an example of struggle between the demand to develop some of the poorest parts of Europe and a desire to protect some of its best-preserved ecosystems.
Sources and Materials

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Construction of the Via Baltica Motorway : conflicts with nature values in protected areas (North-East of Poland)
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Przedstawiamy fragmenty wykładu wygłoszonego w dniu 26 marca 2007 na otwartym posiedzeniu Rady Naukowej Instytutu Zoologii Wydziału Biologii Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego przez znawców Doliny Rospudy
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Battle to save the magical land that time forgot
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Greenpeace announced protests in Rospuda Valley
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YES for Via Baltica and the Augustow Bypass going around the Rospuda Valley!!!
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Poles protest 'eco-unfriendly' highway
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The Road More Traveled
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Poland Faces EU Fines for Highway Through Nature Reserve
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Head-on collision in the Rospuda Valley
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Media Links

Campaign: Let's save Rospuda
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Other Documents

Greenpeace camp in Rospuda Valley Greenpeace activists pitched a camp and proclaimed "Republic of Rospuda" to prevent the construction work

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Protest in Warsaw Opponents to the bypass passing through Rospuda Valley protesting in Warsaw during 2007

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Other CommentsMalgorzata Gorska, one of the leaders of the environmental movement against the construction of the Augustów Bypass, won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2010.

A green ribbon is used as a symbol for the Rospuda Valley campaign.
Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental (CIGA) - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), vankajo(at)
Last update04/10/2017