Chrastava (Czech Republic) (AFP)
Over the past 18 years, Czech physics professor Karel Rehak has seen the water level in his well drop steadily, a phenomenon he attributes to a sprawling Polish lignite mine nearby.
Turow’s open-pit lignite mine covers 28 square kilometers (11 square miles) and powers a power plant that accounts for around seven percent of Poland’s electricity consumption.
Located in the center of Europe, where the borders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany meet, the mine is today at the center of a bitter dispute between Prague and Warsaw.
“I moved here in 2001, and we had fantastic water, but two years later the water level in my well dropped a meter,” said Rehak.
“Of course I had to react, so we dug the well, 10 to 30 meters (32 to 100 feet), and the water level keeps dropping,” he added.
Rehak lives in Horni Vitkov, a village directly opposite the Turow mine, which has to pump large amounts of water to prevent flooding.
Complaints from residents led the Czech government to take legal action against Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
In May, the ECJ ordered Poland to suspend mining there, but the Polish government refused, leading the Czechs to ask the ECJ to fin Poland five million. euros ($ 6 million) for each day the mine remains open.
The governments of the two countries began formal talks on the situation in June, promising to reach a deal.
Germany and the Czech Republic have complained about the mine and its planned expansion, saying it has also caused increased noise and dust levels in the region.
But Poland’s largest energy group PGE, which owns both the mine and the factory, plans to mine coal at Turow until 2044.
In operation since 1904, the mine employs some 4,000 people.
Poland depends on coal for up to 80% of its energy needs, but is committed to developing green energy sources and closing all of its mines by 2049, in line with EU targets. reduction in emissions.
– ‘We are really suffering’ –
For the Czechs, the closure of Turow cannot come soon enough.
Geologists recorded a 50-meter drop in groundwater level in deeper sediments between 1985 and 1999.
“The decline was more or less stagnant until 2013, when the groundwater level started to drop again, with the total drop reaching around 60 to 70 meters,” said Ondrej Nol of the Czech Geological Survey.
# photo1 ″ This decrease is attributed solely to the influence of the Turow mine, ”he said.
Alena Teslikova, who works at the Horni Vitkov school, said her daughter was facing a severe water shortage.
“They have a well and it is empty, so they have to pump water from a well in the neighboring plot. I lived there when I was younger and there has never been a water problem, ”she said.
In the nearby town of Chrastava, Mayor Michael Canov said he did not expect Poland to shut down the mine in the near future, but hoped it could at least help build pipelines in the near future. local public water.
“Neither the city nor the local water company has the money to build it because the pipes are complicated and expensive,” he told AFP.
“The Polish side has always rejected this, saying that nothing has been proven about water, and I think the ECJ ruling prompted them to join the talks,” Canov added.
He said the northern region of the Czech Republic already had a pipeline project.
“It would be better if they started building it next year, because we are really suffering,” said Karel Rehak.
” It’s time to act. “
© 2021 AFP