WARSAW (Reuters) – More than 150 non-governmental organisations are asking the European Commission to intervene to halt the construction of a wall on the Polish-Belarusian border running through protected areas, including one of Europe’s last primeval forests.
Poland started building a 186 km (115.6 mile) metal barrier in January to deter migrants after nearly 40,000 people from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa tried to cross from Belarus last year.
The barrier will run through several protected Natura 2000 areas, including the Bialowieza Forest, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and home to the European bison, lynx and other endangered species.
The organisations from 25 countries argue the project will divide animal habitats and interrupt ecological connectivity.
“We oppose the construction of this horrible wall, which will be ineffective in stopping the migration crisis while risking the collapse of protected species such as lynx,” said Augustyn Mikos from the Association Workshop for All Beings.
“We call on the European Commission, which is the guardian of the EU’s Treaties and Laws, to urgently take action to stop this barrier that goes against all European human rights principles and is in infringement of EU law on nature.”
The appeal will be handed on Tuesday to a representative of the EU executive in Warsaw together with a letter signed by over 1,500 academics and a petition of the local community opposing the wall.
The organisations say the decision to build the barrier was taken without public consultations or an environmental impact assessment.
Poland’s government has said the law on the border wall did not require such an assessment and that over 20 animal crossings would be built to limit its impact on wildlife.
UNESCO, the European Commission and environmentalists called in January for a proper assessment of the environmental impact of the construction.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)