Renaturisation of the Raba river in Małopolskie (Little Poland)

Project completed

The Raba Valley in the south of Poland was once an attractive and environmentally valuable recreation area before construction measures in the 1960s and 1970s led to major changes. At the time it was believed that the river could be better controlled by means of canalisation and a system of dams in the upper part of the river. The disadvantages of such interventions are well known today. In the event of floods, there is serious damage to property, fish stocks are decimated and the natural vegetation in the riverbed virtually disappears. Switzerland supports the re-naturisation of two sections of the river and is thus making a contribution to the improvement of the eco-system.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Protecting the environment
01.09.2011 - 31.12.2016
CHF  1’240’827

Note: the texts under all the headings, with the exception of 'Results achieved', describe the situation before the start of the project.

The river Raba has its source in the Carpathian mountains to the south of Cracow. It now flows in an artificially straightened riverbed, the result of construction measures in the 1960s and 1970s designed to gain the land and to provide flood protection as well is to create space for the motorway that runs parallel to the river. In order to reduce the speed of water flow the authorities at the time and decided to create an additional system of dams and protective walls.

From the environmental point of view, river regulation of this type is now regarded as highly problematic because it can impair and even destroy entire ecosystems. Fish and water birds living in or near the river as well as many species of plants are threatened by such waterway construction measures. Flooding is a further danger. The increased speed of the water flow in the upper part of the river means that at times of flats a larger mass of water reaches the lower part of the river, floods the banks and destroys accommodation and infrastructure along the river.

A further problem has arisen in the Raba Valley. The natural migration routes of fish populations have been interrupted and fish can no longer reach their spawning grounds. On top of this the water temperature has risen and this also has an impact on flora and fauna. Important fish species once found in the river have now disappeared.

Renaturisation - more space for the river, better quality of life for everyone

The project being supported by Switzerland aims to renature two sections of the river between Lubień and Stroza and between Krczińowka and Trzebuńka. The following measures are planned on this 13 km stretch of river:

  • Unnecessary and half destroyed dams and constructions will be removed not only in the river itself but also in its tributaries.

  • The meadowlands in the riverbed are to be given special protection so that they can serve as a natural flooding area in the event of floods.

  • These measures should lead indirectly to a reduction of the water temperature so that the fish species that originally lived here can be reintroduced.

The project is also designed to promote eco-tourism and it will be implemented on behalf of the Polish government by a local non-government organisations and by the water authorities in Cracow.

Meeting EU requirements

In the light of the new EU guidelines for water management in the framework of Natura 2000, the project is an important example of the renaturation of a river. Natura 2000 is the official designation for rape coherent network of protected areas that is being created within the European Union on the basis of a nature protection guideline Established in 1992. Its aim is the cross-border protection of endangered wild and domestic species of plants and animals. In 1992 the European Union, by signing the Biological Diversity Convention, undertook to protect the biological diversity of species and habitats. The Raba riverbed is one of the protected areas listed in Natura 2000.