Nature and its Threats to Poland

If asked the question: what are the threats posed by nature in Poland?, most people wouldn’t come up with a recurrent problem right away. That is because of the country’s relatively safe geological location. When people think about natural disasters, the images that come to their minds are usually tsunami waves, hurricanes, earthquakes… But the central part of Europe is not directly exposed to any of that. It seems like there is nothing to worry about. However, when you look into Poland’s past, you will at once notice that it has encountered the force of nature many times. The element causing the most problems was and still is water.

Twenty years ago, Poland faced one of the most disastrous floods in its history. It is now referred to as the “Millennium Flood”. It started with continuous, heavy rainfall in the northern part of Poland’s neighbor, the Czech Republic, and the southern part of Poland. Water levels could rise by up to a few meters in a single day. The flood quickly spread to other regions of Poland, Czech Republic, and not much later, Germany, Austria, and Slovakia. By this time, it became known as “The 1997 Central European Flood”. Taking the lives of 56 Poles, and causing material damages estimated at circa 3,5 billion dollars, it will always be remembered by citizens of Poland. The then President of Wroclaw, one of the cities which was most afflicted by the flooding, said in an interview looking back at the catastrophe from twenty years ago: “Walking down these streets now, everyone remembers that flood.”

However, that example is not the only case of Poland’s struggle with heavy rains. Just a few years ago, in 2010, there was a flood which in some parts of the country reached even higher water levels than the one back in 1997 . 30 000 people had to be evacuated because of the cities’ failing embankments.

This leads to the question: is Poland doing everything it can to prevent such losses when threatened by excessive rainfall? Undoubtedly, the citizens are ready to unite and help each other when challenged by water’s force. The previous floods showed that even people directly affected, were willing to help those left without shelter. They raised money, offered to work on restorations, as well as opened their homes to the victims.

What about the government? Its first reaction to the Millennium Flood raised a lot of doubts. The then Prime Minister Cimoszewicz commented on the flooding saying “this is yet another case which reassures us that one has to (…) be insured”. He later apologized for the unfortunate words, which offended many victims, and took action to help those in need along with making sure that the destroyed anti-flooding constructions were rebuilt in a more modern and effective way.

by Maria S.