Reduction of environmental impacts of fertilisation

Agriculture is one of the sectors of the economy whose impact on the natural environment is significant. Nitrogen and phosphorus, known as biogenic elements, play a special role in both plant and animal production; hence the intensification of production in rural areas may pose a threat of dispersion of these components into the environment and deterioration of water resources.

The reduction of pollutant emissions is one of the most effective ways to protect waters, including the marine environment. This can be achieved through institutional arrangements, as well as economic and legal instruments

Upon the accession of Poland to the European Union, the formal and legal implementation of Council Directive 91/676/EEC on the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources, known as the Nitrates Directive, was completed. Its implementation was due to, among others greater use of mineral nitrogen fertilisers and natural fertilisers. It was recognised that the excessive use of fertilisers promotes the growth of nitrate concentration in waters intended for consumption, which indicates the need to protect human health and aquatic ecosystems through proper storage of fertilisers and their rational use.

The transposition of the Nitrates Directive into Polish law has been made through the following legislation:

  • Act of 18 July 2001 – Water Law (Journal of Laws No. 115, item 1229, as amended);
  • Regulation of the Minister of Environment of 23 December 2002 on the criteria for designation of waters vulnerable to pollution from nitrogen compounds from agricultural sources (Journal of Laws No. 241, item 2093);
  • Regulation of the Minister of Environment of 23 December 2002 on the detailed requirements to be met by action programmes aimed at reducing the outflow of nitrogen from agricultural sources (Journal of Laws of 2003, No. 4, item 44);
  • 11 regulations of directors of regional water management authorities on the determination of waters vulnerable to pollution from nitrogen compounds from agricultural sources, and nitrate vulnerable zones from which the outflow of nitrogen from agricultural sources into these waters should be limited;
  • 21 regulations of directors of regional water management authorities on the introduction of an action programme to reduce the outflow of nitrogen from agricultural sources in a nitrate vulnerable zone;
  • Act of 26 July 2000 on fertilisers and fertilisation (Journal of Laws No. 91, item 991);
  • Regulation of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of 1 June 2001 on the detailed method of application of fertilisers, and training on their application (Journal of Laws No. 60, item 616).
Some of the above-mentioned legal regulation are outdated, links to any current applicable legal provisions can be found in the  "legal regulations".

Poland is a party to the Helsinki Convention on the Protection of Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area of 9 April 1992, to which all the Baltic states are parties. Being formed by relevant working groups, the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) is an executive body of the Convention. Their task is to develop relevant actions to reduce pollutant emissions and improve the quality of the Baltic Sea ecosystem.
Act of 18 July 2001 – Water Law, as amended laying down provisions on water management, also in terms of formation and protection of its resources, in accordance with the principle of sustainable development, is the most important piece of legislation related to the implementation of the provisions of the Helsinki Convention