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
Name of conflict:Augustów Bypass in Rospuda Valley, Poland
State or province:Augustów County
(municipality or city/town)Augustów
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 commodities:Land
Transport infrastructure, plant and animal species, peatland ecosystem
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Every day 5,000 trucks drive through Augustów.

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Project area:1,000
Level of Investment:150,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:30,000 (population of Augustów affected by pollution from Highway E67)
Start of the conflict:1992
End of the conflict:2009
Relevant government actors:General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways (GDDKiA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:WWF 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
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
International scientists, EU institutions
Forms of mobilization:Artistic 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
Impacts of the project
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-economical ImpactsPotential: displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Negotiated alternative solution
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:Residents 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain: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
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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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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Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Campaign: Let's save Rospuda
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Other documents

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

Source: http://www.ifra.com/website/xma2007.nsf/0/19A21CA7D333D0EFC12572E200740284/$file/06-Rospuda-WarsawMarch.jpg
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Greenpeace camp in Rospuda Valley Greenpeace activists pitched a camp and proclaimed "Republic of Rospuda" to prevent the construction work

Source: http://www.ifra.com/website/xma2007.nsf/0/19A21CA7D333D0EFC12572E200740284/$file/05-Rospuda-CampInTheValley.jpg
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Other comments:Malgorzata 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
Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental (CIGA) - Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), vankajo(at)gmail.com
Last update04/10/2017