Vistula Spit canal would improve links to neighbours: expert

“While Elbląg is not as big as Gdańsk, or Gdynia, its location closer to Warsaw, the Baltic Countries and Belarus would make it significant,” should the Vistula Spit Canal project on Poland’s Baltic coast go ahead, expert Dawid Piekarz of the Staszic Institute told PolandIN.

See the full interview here.

As election fever hots up, the question of whether or not to press ahead with the project to dig a channel through the Vistula Spit is one which rival camps are fighting over.

Dawid Piekarz of the Staszic Institute, who wrote a paper on the project last year, defended the viability of the project on the grounds of the location of the port of Elbląg, which he say is “well connected by road and by waterways to the Baltic States and Belarus,” as well as being closer to Warsaw than major ports Gdańsk and Gdynia. Currently, access to the Vistula basin is via the Pilawa Strait, closely guarded by Russia. Foreign ships wishing to visit Elbląg have to announce their intentions to the Russian authorities in Kaliningrad some two weeks before entering the strait. Dawid Piekarz calls this “a comfortable situation for Russia and an uncomfortable one for Poland”

In the political arena, there are those with a keen interest in the development of towns along the Vistula Basin which have been left behind during the post-war period, since the administration of entrance to the Pilawa strait was taken over by the Soviet Union.

President Duda has offered his support to the project despite estimates that revenues from increases in shipping would take 450 years to cover the cost of building the channel.

Opposing the project there are environmentalists, concerned about the impact on the natural beauty of the area. Rafał Trzaskowski takes a seemingly neutral stance, saying the project should be put off for three years and funding should be spent on medical services.

Preliminary work on the project, including the felling of trees in the area beside the town of Kąty Rybackie, began last year, much to the concern of environmentalists.

But most of the project, initially valued at PLN 834 mln (EUR 180 mln) and now estimated to cost nearly PLN 2 bn ( EUR 440 mln) because of the need to reinforce the north bank of the River Elbląg and create an artificial island for nesting birds, has still to get approval of the European Commission.

Dawid Piekarz told us that the benefits to water tourism for the area would pay off, especially with the link to the 80-km Elbląg canal. In his paper on the subject he mentions that the lagoon is very underused by yachting enthusiasts and that using the funding to complete the project would create jobs.