Historical Outline of the Programme

Legal foundations of the PROGRAMME


PROGRAMME Design System


Anticipated Conflicts

External Preconditions

Strengths and Weaknesses of the PROGRAMME


The 'Vistula and Its Basin 2020' Programme, later referred to as the 'Vistula 2020 Programme' or the PROGRAMME, was initiated by the Union of Vistula River Towns, an organisation that has managed to attract to the idea a number of local authorities, governmental and non-governmental organisations and other institutions. Their mutual interest in the programme resulted in the so-called Toruń Agreement signed on 2 June 2000.

The 'Vistula and Its Basin 2020' is an investment capital programme.


Historical Outline of the Programme

Among the many reasons underlying the need to launch such a programme there were the following:

  1. to continue the work in progress undertaken by a number of governmental and local self-government institutions, research institutes, associations and others.

  2. to positively relieve the pressure felt by local self-government authorities to solve fundamental water economy problems; this pressure was instrumental in the self-governmental initiative to set up an Office to develop the PROGRAMME

  3. To compensate for the lack of any direct united action related to water economy, including a total lack of water management policy or strategy

  4. To finally create an unambiguous definition and classification of the problems present in the Vistula River basin and to arrive at the ways to solve them, mainly concentrating on finding funds to finance the work to be undertaken

  5. To co-ordinate various activities and prevent possible conflicts from arising.

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Legal foundations of the PROGRAMME

The PROGRAMME is based on the following legal foundations:

  • The constitutional sustainable development principle Acts related to water economy and environmental protection, such as:

  • EU directives-first and foremost-the EU Directive on the Quality and Protection of Water and Pollution Control

  • Polish ecological policy

  • Agreements and international conventions, including:

  • Convention on Wetlands, which have an international importance, especially as the natural environment for water birds (RAMSAR 1971),

  • Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (PARIS 1972),

  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (WASHINGTON 1973),

  • Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (BONN 1979),

  • Convention on the Protection of Species of Wild European Fauna and Flora and their Natural Environments (BERN 1979),

  • Convention on Biological Diversity (RIO de JANEIRO 1992),

  • European Ecological Network of Specially Protected Areas known as NATURE 2000.

  • Strategies at the national and regional level

  • Environmental protection projects (of 2003) designed by the regional self-government authorities,

  • Integrated Operational Programmes of Regional Development designed by the local parliament offices for the years 2004 – 2006 taking into account the long-term needs of the Vistula 2020 Programme;

  • National Program of Municipal Sewage Treatment System

  • The Ordinance of the Chair of the Council of Ministers to establish the Ministry of Environmental Protection

  • The Polish Parliament resolution to embark on an investment undertaking called Nieszawa – Ciechocinek water drop of 22 December 2000

  • Toruń Agreement of 2 June 2000

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The PROJECT embraces the whole area said to constitute the Vistula river basin.


Nearly the whole area of Poland (97,3%) falls within the drainage catchment of the Baltic Sea in the basins of the Vistula (53,9%), the Oder (34%), the Baltic Coastland rivers (11%) and the Nyoman (0,8%). According to the new division, in compliance to the Ordinance of the Council of Ministers of 10 December 2002 (Dziennik Ustaw, No 232 entry 1953 – an entry in the official gazette announcing current legislation), the Baltic Coastland rivers belong to the Oder basin (taking up 40% of Poland’s area) and to the Vistula (59% of the total area), respectively. Thus, the area of Poland has been divided into two river basins.

Trunk Rivers in the Vistula Basin


Length (km)

Basin Area (km2)



1 047

194 424, including 168 699 in Poland



39 420, including 19 284 in Poland



75 175, including 53 873 in Poland



16 861, including 14 390 in Poland



9 273



10 415


Territorial Division of the Programme Area:

  • the Vistula basin within the boundaries of the Polish Republic;

  • basins of other rivers including the Baltic Coastland rivers ascribed to the area of the Vistula basin recently marked out.

According to the Ordinance of the Council of Ministers of 10 December 2002, the Vistula basin has been divided into four water regions, falling within the jurisdiction and supervision of regional water management boards (RZGWs):

  1. the water region of the Small Vistula/Mała Wisła (RZGW Gliwice) – embracing the area of the Vistula basin from its source up to the Przemsza river mouth;

  2. the water region of the Upper Vistula/Górna Wisła (RZGW Krakow) - embracing the area of the Vistula basin from the Przemsza river mouth up to the Sanna river mouth;

  3. the water region of the Middle Vistula/¦rodkowa Wisła (RZGW Warszawa) - embracing the area of the Vistula basin from the Sanna river mouth up to the village of Korabniki;

  4. the water region of the Lower Vistula/Dolna Wisła (RZGW Gdańsk) - embracing the area of the Vistula basin from the village of Korabniki up to the Vistula sea estuary and also the basin of Baltic Coastland rivers;

MAPS OF THE VISTULA BASIN WATER REGIONS (RZGW Gliwice – the total area of the Upper Oder and the Small Vistula basins).

This division reflects the natural conditions of the basin and will be included in the PROGRAMME.

Additionally, the PROGRAMME will include the Żuławy/Marshland area because of its uniqueness and the advanced work on the Żuławy Law, which will constitutive an integral part of the Vistula Law.

The PROGRAMME demands international co-operation in the areas where Poland shares its water basins with its neighbouring countries.

The creators of the PROGRAMME aim to correlate the water regions with the administrative division of the country in the future.

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PROGRAMME Design System

The ‘Vistula and Its Basin’ Programme Office accepted the following system to design the PROGRAMME:

  • The project initiators decided to research the following four basic subject areas:

  • Protection of water sources and underground and surface water purity control;

  • Emergency prevention (flood and drought prevention);,

  • Environmental protection and protection of natural resources and landscape;

  • Economic development of the basin (hydropower engineering, inland navigation and bridge crossings, tourism, etc.).

  • It was agreed that the data used in the PROGRAMME would be accessed from the following sources:

  • Regional government offices,

  • Regional Water Management Boards (Regionalny Zarz±d Gospodarki Wodnej - RZGW)

The data collection and research system used by the PROGRAMME initiators can be presented as follows:


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The PROGRAM must be constructed in such a way that it will stimulate initiation of various local programmes and economic initiatives functioning in accord with the sustainable development principle.

The PROGRAMME should mainly incorporate such local activities without which local development will not be possible. For example, prospective reactivation of tourist activity on the Vistula requires its waterways to be regulated and water treatment plants to be built, etc.


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Anticipated Conflicts

Any action provokes conflicts of interests. The PROGRAMME designers anticipate the following:

  • conflicts between the economic and environmental lobbies - like in case of the Nieszawa Dam, Nature 2000 Programme, the Lower Vistula Stepped Falls

  • conflicts of local interests and loyalties in the basin area

  • conflicts between the governmental and self-government bodies

  • international conflicts

The PROGRAMME initiators aim to facilitate compromise in the areas of conflict. Without reaching mutual agreements, the PROGRAMME cannot possibly be implemented.

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External Preconditions

Being a branch of science, water economy also belongs to those sectors of the national economy that are closely connected with other areas of economic activity. Generally speaking, the main aim of water economy is to rationally shape and take advantage of the underground and surface water sources. The rational forming and use means here that the sources available are used in an optimal way, according to established criteria justified socially and economically.

Activities related to water economy boil down to those undertaken by the government and the national regional and local administration in order to properly:

  • make quantitative and qualitative description of the water sources according to the needs of their users and consumers, taking protection of the natural environment into account;

  • control overbank discharges at flood time.

There are some basic principles governing water management the world over:

  • drainage basin principle - assuming that water management should be exercised within the areas of respective water basins;

  • active community principle - engaging members of the community in the workings of the system of control over the processes of utilisation and development of water sources;

  • administration principle - consisting in the State's statutory control of and supervision over the water resources in the country;

  • central planning and funding principle - leaving strategic decisions and basic financial resources in the hands of central authorities;

  • market principle - aiming to put water economy on the market.

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Strengths and Weaknesses of the PROGRAMME

Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis:


  • gathering all important governmental and non-governmental circles around a shared idea of the PROGRAMME and its prospective implementation;

  • a global PROGRAMME for the entire basin stands a better chance than dispersed small-scale initiatives;

  • a high degree of social acceptance to the PROGRAMME by local communities and authorities;

  • co-ordination of investment activities conducive to effective financing of individual undertakings and decreasing the amount and range of encroachment upon the natural environment


  • Low degree of approval by decision-makers at various levels with regards to allotting funds, the reason being the PROGRAMME'S long-term planning and the results to be seen long after the decision makers' term of office;

  • Conflicts of interests and loyalties mentioned above

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