Why Poland plans to build a 1,200 km wall

Poland wants to prevent the crossing of wild boars [Shutterstock]

Poland has decided to build a wall on its eastern border by 2020 to effectively tackle swine fever. The aim of the wall is to prevent wild boars carrying the disease from entering its territory, a decision that is far from convincing experts. EURACTIV’s partner Ouest-France reports

The Polish government will build one of the longest fences in the world along its eastern border, according to the British daily The Telegraph. The purpose of the wall is to protect the country from disease-carrying wild boars.

“The fence must be built in such a way to ensure our safety,” declared Robert Telus, MP and member of the parliamentary committee on rural development and agriculture, in front of Polish media last week. “We need to make sure that wild boars don’t enter our country, and that we keep our pig farmers safe.”

A 1,200 km wall

The wall will be built by 2020, it will be spread over more than 1200km and will follow the border between Poland and Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, the steel fence is expected to be two metres high. It will also be buried in the ground to prevent animals from making tunnels. The cost of the work is estimated at more than €56 million. For now, only hunters seem to stop the crossing of wild boars, but some still escape their watch.

Some experts are questioning the efficiency of building a boar fence. “I doubt whether it is effective,” Dr Tomasz Podgorski, an expert at the Institute for mammal research at the Polish Academy of Sciences, told The Telegraph. “Belarus had already tried something similar and studies had shown that wild boars had no trouble getting through.”

The red line represents the proposed fence [Infographie: Elevation Data/USGS]

Swine fever already found

Others question the need for a fence as there have already been cases of swine fever in Poland. Since 2014, 108 cases of the disease have been reported among domestic pigs, and 1415 among boars. “The only thing the fence could do is keep the disease within our borders”, said Dr Tomasz Podgroski during an interview with the Polish radio station Tok FM.

Wild boars are powerful and intelligent animals, they can be persistent and have a remarkable skill in crossing and avoiding obstacles, especially if an obstacle is preventing them from feeding. Poland’s eastern border also crosses lakes and rivers, it is therefore highly probable that they would provide wild boars with natural passages in the fence.

For years, African swine fever, a highly contagious haemorrhagic disease has thrived in Poland, affecting boars and pigs in Eastern Europe. Although it poses no hazard for humans, it is an evil for swine farms and can devastate entire populations of pigs. The disease is also endemic in the Russian Federation and unfortunately, there is still no cure or vaccine for it. In 1960, Spain and Portugal were affected by the disease and it took them more than 30 years to eradicate it.

In France, a growing population of wild boar has led to the destruction of pastures used for dairy cows. In France’s northeastern Haut-Rhin department, the phenomenon became so serious that farmers demanded the slaughter of boars in January as the Munster cheese production was threatened.

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