Country Listing

Poland Table of Contents


Government Environmental Policy

Poland established a Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources in 1985, but the new department exerted little authority. Between 1987 and 1988, for example, government investment in environmental protection increased by only 6 percent. In 1990 the initial postcommunist environmental timetable was to achieve "substantial" reduction of extreme environmental hazards in three years and to reach the level of European Community (EC--see Glossary) requirements in seven to ten years. In early 1991, the ministry drafted a new state ecological policy, the core of which eliminated the communist rationale of "social interest" in the arbitrary consumption of natural resources. Instead, the new policy fixed responsibility for the negative results of resource consumption at the source. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources officially identified the eighty enterprises causing the most pollution and promised to shut them down if pollution were not reduced. The role of nongovernmental environmental organizations in policy making was recognized officially for the first time. In late 1991, a State Environmental Protection Inspectorate was established, with broad powers to regulate polluting industries. Penalties for environmental damage also were increased at that time.

At the same time, government policy steered carefully away from measures that would sacrifice economic development, and policy makers debated the appropriate standards for comparing immediate economic growth with the estimated longer term gains of beginning a rigorous cleanup program. Accordingly, in 1990 the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources adopted a policy of "ecodevelopment" emphasizing modernization and restructuring measures that theoretically would curtail pollution while they streamlined production operations. The policy included distribution of information to the public to gain acceptance of economic sacrifice for environmental improvement; linkage of environmental law to the new market mechanism slowly being created; promotion of an awareness in Western Europe of the transnational impact of Poland's air and water pollution; and application of foreign capital and technology to environmental cleanup problems. At the end of 1990, Western banks began opening credit lines for Polish environmental protection, and plans for some multinational ecological enterprises included Poland. In 1991 the United States government agreed to forgive part of Poland's debt in exchange for domestic investment in pollution control.

Data as of October 1992