Letter by the Foreign Minister, Chair of the National Commission for UNESCO V.Makei to the heads of National Commissions for UNESCO of foreign countries in connection with the construction by Poland of the border wall on the territory of Bialowieza Forest
I have the honor to address you on the state of conservation of the transboundary World Heritage property "Bialowieza Forest" (Belarus/Poland) and express utmost concern regarding the construction of the border wall bу Poland across the property.
Bialowieza Forest is the last in Europe and the largest lowland primeval forests, which has been preserved in its natural state to this day, and includes extensive undisturbed areas of old-growth forests.
The creation of an artificial obstacle across the property violates the principle of free movement of biological species within their natural habitats and poses а serious threat to the sustainable existence and conservation of populations of ungulates (Bison, deer, roe deer, elks) and predatory mammals (bears, wolves, foxes and others).
I am obliged to note with regret that there are already facts of the death of large mammals: Bison, deer and roe deer.
Considering the scale of the ongoing works bу Poland on the construction of the wall, one can forecast the inevitability of the following serious negative consequences for the ecosystems of the World Heritage property "Bialowieza Forest":
- fragmentation of the forest complex and protected habitats, rupture of transboundary ecological corridors;
- felling of the adjacent strip of old-growth and bасk alder forests, destruction of living ground cover during construction work;
- violation of the hydrological regime of adjacent ecosystems;
- blocking the migration routes and seasonal movements of animals, the subsequent impoverishment of the gene pool of their populations;
- the emergence of new ways of penetration of alien plant species into natural ecosystems.
I would like to draw your attention to the unprecedented violation bу Poland of the provisions of the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage according to which the State Party should take all necessary measures for the protection and conservation of the cultural and natural heritage situated on its territory.
In accordance with Paragraph 11О of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention "impact assessments for proposed interventions are essential for all World Heritage properties".
Despite our repeated requests, the Polish side has not yet provided information on the details of the construction of the wall and its impact assessment on Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property.
The World Heritage Center also requested the Polish side to submit an impact assessment to UNESCO for review bу the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and appealed to the Polish authorities to suspend construction works inside the property until the situation is comprehensively examined and evaluated in line with the Operational Guidelines.
I would like to emphasize that Poland's decision of building а border wall had not been agreed with the Belarusian side and completely contradicts the recommendation of the 2018 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to "take up again the discussions on how to improve connectivity in the overall Bialowieza Forest ecosystem, including across the state border between Belarus and Poland".
The state of conservation of the transboundary World Heritage property Bialowieza Forest will bе examined bу the World Heritage Committee at its upcoming 45th session.
I would like to ask you, dear Colleagues, to support Belarus and to urge the Government of Poland to stop the construction of the wall inside the World Heritage property "Bialowieza Forest", dismantle the fence that has already been installed and start adequate and prompt process to repair the damage caused to ecological systems of the Bialowieza Forest.
I count on your support in finding effective solutions to the situation described in the spirit of engagement and partnership, and reaffirm our readiness to cooperate with all parties involved in this matter.
Please accept, dear Colleagues, the assurance of highest consideration.
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