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Country profile: Poland
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1. Pressure on the environment

The main air pollutants in Poland include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust. Due to increased legal and economic efficiency in the early nineties, sulphur dioxide and dust emission have significantly decreased during the last decade. The rationalization of water consumption for both industrial and household applications has resulted in a decrease the amount of sewage.

The high volume of accumulated waste and its illegal or improper disposal is a serious threat for both the public and the environment. The Waste Management Act (in effect from January 1, 1998) has provided the new legal basis for waste management and control. A decrease in and the subsequent stabilization of the volume of industrial waste has resulted mainly from changes in industrial production, including the reduction in coal mining. Industrial waste treatment is still only carried out on a relatively small scale in Poland, and mainly at industrial plants to meet the plant's own needs. A market for industrial waste treatment services is still only emerging (GRID ENRIN)

2. State of the biota

Forest habitats are predominantly coniferous, which cover approximately 66 percent of the forest area. Over the last 50 years the percentage of the broadleaf species has increased from 13% in 1945 up to 22.5% in 1996.

Since 1995 there has been a noticeable improvement in the health of forest stands. The most prominent improvement has been observed in coniferous species (pine and fir). Beech and birch stands have shown the largest improvements among the broadleaf species. These improvements have resulted from continued reductions in air pollution and increased precipitations during the growing period.

3. Response

The political changes of 1989 initiated new important and progressive steps in the environmental field. The new National Environmental Policy (NEP) document was approved by Parliament in 1991. NEP is based on the principles of sustainable development and the "polluter pays" principle. The intermediate short-term goal is to eliminate environmental hazards posing imminent threats to human health. Over the mid-term, the NEP has sought to initiate the harmonization of Polish environmental standards with Western levels. The long-term goal of the NEP is to implement sustainable development practices throughout the Polish economy (REC 1998).

Over the last 15 years protected areas have been increased substantially and now cover over 29 percent of the country. There are nine biosphere reserves and 23 national parks in Poland. The national parks cover a total area of approximately 315,000 ha, (1 percent of the country). Polish National Parks are exceptional in Europe for their range of wildlife, their size and varying geographical interest. Habitat types found in the parks include: mountain ranges, highlands, lowlands, forests, lakes, rivers, wetlands and Baltic coastal areas. Besides the main goal (i.e. nature conservation) the parks also carry out scientific, didactic and tourist activities.

The common webpage of the Polish National Parks

4. Institutional background - links

Ministry of the Environment
State inspectorate for Environmental Protection
Polish Academy of Sciences
Institute of Oceanology
Mammal Research Institute
Karol Starmach Institute of Freshwater Biology
Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals
Wladyslaw Szafer Institute of Botany

Institute of Botany of Jagellonian University
Laboratory of Environmental Ecology
Forest Research Institute in Warsaw
Institute for Sustainable Development, Warsaw
Institute of Environmental Protection
Institute for Ecology of Industrialized Areas

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© FAO   ::   Global Terrestrial Observing System - GTOS   ::   29 January 2003