Land and Water - Management and Use combined together: integrated approach along Vistula river in Poland
Poland, a country that uses over 14 million hectares for agricultural needs, is also the country at risk of water deficit mainly due to low precipitation, high potential evapotranspiration, seasonal variability and changing climate conditions (softer winters, less and irregular precipitations, warmer temperatures).
Regions of north-west and mid-east are threatened with severe droughts, up to 40% of the country area is affected by droughts overall. In the recent 20 years droughts occurred even more frequent than in the past. Existing water reservoirs have a low capacity and may retain only 6% of the annual outflow of water in the country, which does not ensure sufficient protection against periodical excesses or shortages. In addition, the agricultural land is characterized by high levels of sandiness and limited availability of organic matter which limits possibilities for water retention. Overall, it raises a need for development and implementation of solutions improving land and water - management and use working together.
A good example for ‘land and water - management and use’ is the Polish-Dutch project Vistula River Park in which the integrated Dutch approach towards water and land management has been used to find development concepts for areas belonging to the Vistula riverbanks in the region of Mazovia. The project focuses on key issues of revitalization, development and riverside land use, including restoration, renewal or creation of new spatial and functional relationships with the Vistula river.
The Mazovia region is the biggest (35 558,18 km2) and the most populated region of Poland (over 5 million of inhabitants), agriculture covers 2/3 of its area. At the same time, Mazovia is the region of active economic development and progressing urbanization. In relation to water, the main challenges include low disposal of surface waters and low rate of water retention. The natural threats include floods, landslides and periodic droughts. The area is being confronted with the dynamic change regarding settlement (urbanization), economic development, migration movements and demographic processes (rural areas) in particular. There is a deep need for solutions combining protection of the river valley with its balanced management and use of its resources.
The Vistula River Park is defined concept of the area’s development and features the proposals of its further progress through several directional projects. Projects are located within strategic zones:
- Płock and surroundings (1),
- Agriculture riverside area (2),
- Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki and surroundings (3) and
- Leoncin area next to the Kampinoski National Park (4).
Their realization has been proposed in form of a dozen targeted projects. Zones as well as projects indicate the possibilities of the area’s development, inter alia through strengthening its spatial, functional and economic bonds with the river. The aim is expressed by co-operation directed towards the undertakings, which would focus on the strengthening the basic capital of Vistula riverside, creating conditions for the areas development as well as the improvement of space quality.
Below we present examples of projects dedicated to zone of agriculture area within the Vistula River Park (Zone2) which has a typically agricultural character.
The entire area is devoid of larger lakes and is characterised by a very low amount of rainfalls. But, high-quality arable lands due to good soils (class I-III) and good environmental conditions occur here, one of the best in the whole region. Within agricultural production dominates fruit (especially strawberries), vegetables, meat and milk. Their local concentration results not only from favourable conditions, but also multi-generational traditions (family farms). The zone is a part of a strategic alimentary area of Mazovian Region. As far as economy is concerned, the zone lacks significant production sectors and is highly diversified in terms of planting and sowing structure. Low incomes of agriculture (between ¼ and 2/3 of farms displayed income from hired labour beyond one’s own far) cause migration problems. In addition, the area requires additional hydrological solutions. Being located in the neighbourhood of Warsaw city and local airport (Modlin airport with plans for cargo function in the future), regardless the mentioned challenges, this area has potential for developing in the next 20-30 years. Therefore, 3 targeted projects have been proposed for this agriculture zone:
1) Food Strategy – Approach for Program;
2) Agro Vistula River Park;
3) Multifunctional land use: Agro Production and Recreation Around the Cities.
They all take into consideration local conditions, especially profile of agriculture (industrial, ecological or integrated) and link together different aspects of land and water - management and use. The Mazovia region must make a choice of the whole area development’s profile that will address the social interest, food safety and regional environment in the best possible way.
The Vistula River Park is an excellent example in which provides transfer of Dutch knowledge and concepts to the Polish market and results in building a sustainable and long lasting cooperation between Polish stakeholders suitable for knowledge exchange and cooperation with Dutch companies integrating water management, spatial development, landscape architecture, ecology and area development (including agriculture). The Vistula River Park delivers ready and targeted projects for implementation that have been worked out with local stakeholders of Mazovia Region and for Mazovia Region. Projects are complex but serves public and private aims at the same time.