The Augustów Canal (Kanal Augustowski)
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Area covered by the property:
The area of the property encompasses the Augustów Canal together with buildings and hydraulic engineering structures and the area integral to them, necessary to the Canal operation, described as the conservation protection zone – in the territory of the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Belarus.
Total length 101.20 km
The area covered by the property Pl=74.25 km² Bl=8.42 km² total 82,67 km²
The Augustów Canal is a cross-border monument of technology located in the territory of two states, in the north-eastern part of Poland and the north-western part of Belarus. It is a linear object. It is a navigable watershed canal, linking the Vistula River through the Biebrza River – a tributary of the Narew River, with the Neman River through its tributary – the Czarna Hancza River. It uses a postglacial channel depression, forming the chain of Augustów lakes, and the river valleys of the Biebrza, the Netta, the Czarna Hancza and the Neman, which made it possible to perfectly integrate the Canal with the surrounding elements of the natural environment.
The reasons behind the construction of the Augustów Canal were both political and economic. In 1821 Prussia unilaterally introduced repressively high customs duties for transit of Polish and Lithuanian goods through its territory, which practically blocked the access of Polish traders to the Baltic Sea through the Vistula River. In the years 1823-1839 a waterway was constructed, bypassing the Prussian territory, linking the centre of the “Congress” Kingdom of Poland with Latvian ports on the Baltic Sea.
The historical complex of the Augustów Canal includes the elements of the waterway formed by natural lakes: Necko, Biale, Studzieniczne, Orle, Paniewo, Krzywe and Mikaszewo, rivers: Netta, Czarna Hancza, Klonownica, Plaska (Sucha Rzeczka, Serwianka), Mikaszówka, Perkucia, Szlamica, Wolkuszanka, Ostaszanka, interconnected by artificial cuttings and hydraulic engineering installations (locks and weirs), with towpaths along the canal bank as well as a system of roads and bridges, functionally linked with the Canal and the canalside buildings. The Sajno and Serwy lakes within the boundaries of the property and the Wigry Lake outside the buffer zone limits provide a water reserve feeding the canal water system.
The area proposed for inscription onto the World Heritage List of UNESCO covers the whole length of the historical Canal. The buffer zone is a uniformly shaped integral part of the site in the territory of the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Poland.
The Augustów Canal was the first part of the whole well developed system of inland waterways in this part of Europe. It provides a direct link between the drainage basins of the Vistula and the Neman rivers; a further connection with the port of Windawa (Ventspils) through the Dubyssa and Windawa rivers was also planned. Within the inland waterways system, the Vistula and the Neman drainage basins were also linked with the Black Sea – through the Oginsky Canal with the Dnieper basin, then along the Dnieper and, through the Berezina Canal, with the Dvina River.