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Hundred people protest at Bialowieza Forest logging in Prague

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Prague, Aug 14 (CTK) – More than 100 people met in Prague’s historical Lesser Town Square on Monday to protest against logging in Poland’s Bialowieza Forest, a part of which figures on the UNESCO list of world’s natural heritage.

In July, the European Commission filed a legal action against the tree cutting and the European Court of Justice issued a preliminary injunction to ban it.

The Czech Environment Ministry, too, criticised Poland’s approach, but Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyszko (Law and Justice) said the logging will continue to prevent a danger of a bark-beetle calamity.

“Bialowieza is the most valuable lowland forest that has been left in Europe. Its protection is definitely a priority for all Europe, not only for Poland,” Jakub Hruska, from the Czech Science Academy, said during the Prague demonstration on Monday.

He said the current Polish government is devastating the previous long pro-environment work of Polish experts.

Hruska said the Bialowieza Forest is not endangered by bark-beetle.

“Spruces make up mere 17 percent of trees in the area. Even if all spruces died, the forest would continue to live,” Hruska said.

Environmentalists say the bark beetle argument is a pretext for Poland to economically exploit the forest. They criticise Poland for disrespecting the EC’s decision and the European court’s preliminary injunction.

At present, about 1,500 trees are cut in the Bialowieza Forest a day, the logging equipment being protected by a 70-strong forest guard, Jan Skalik, who co-organised the Prague demonstration, said.

Speaking on behalf of the Czech Environment Ministry, Dominika Pospisilova said Poland should not cut trees in the protected area, parts of which have been left to spontaneous development for many years and have a virgin-forest character.

Pospisilova said trees should only be cut on the margin of the area in order to prevent bark beetle from spreading around.

The Czech ministry has welcomed the European Court of Justice’s preliminary injunction ordering an immediate halt of the tree cutting, she said.

The Bialowieza Forest is also a part of Europe’s Natura 2000 network of protected localities.

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