Ceremony today in Wrocław for beginning of Polish ICPO Presidency
Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic have been cooperating for 20 years on maintaining good environmental status in the water bodies of the Oder River basin. Numerous wastewater treatment plants and fish passes have been constructed to this end. The most important platform for this cooperation is the International Commission on the Protection of the Odra against Pollution (ICPO), which was founded in 1996. At a ceremony to be held today in Wrocław, Poland, the three countries are reflecting on what has been achieved. At the same time, the three-year ICPO Presidency will pass from Germany to Poland.
Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks remarked: "Bodies of water recognise no borders. ICPO does important work to protect the Oder River and its catchment area. The positive, trusting working relationship that exists between Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic is a linchpin for the ICPO’s success."
In 1990, shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the three countries came together to coordinate with each other on issues of water management in the Oder’s international basin. After several years of hands-on cooperation, the convention that established ICPO was signed on 11 April 1996. The countries agreed to work together on protection and use of the Oder. In particular, inputs of nutrients and harmful substances have been significantly reduced thanks to new construction and upgrades of wastewater treatment plants. The catastrophic flooding events of 1997 placed flood prevention on the joint agenda as well. Currently, the ICPO also serves as a platform for the international coordination of implementing EU directives that apply to river basin systems, for example the Water Framework Directive, and that have the goal of achieving “good environmental status” for the Oder basin waters. One joint concern is making the Oder and its tributaries passable for migratory fish species once more. In all three countries, fish passes have been and are being built in order to allow migratory fish species like salmon to reach their spawning, feeding and nursery grounds. These are being built, for example, on stretches of the Ucker, the Eastern or Glatzer Neisse and the Polish side of the Neisse, and on the Bílý Potok in the Czech Republic.
To prevent cross-boundary fallout from accidents, the ICPO has agreed a joint warning and alarm system for the Oder basin, which is being tested regularly. Next year, a cross-boundary drill will be held to practice cooperation in the case of disasters.