Zakole Project

The Interspecies Right to the City
A project in the Zakole wetland region, which aims to raise awareness of its ecological importance and make it accessible to people while promoting the non-human rights to the city and future scenarios


Poland, a country with one of the richest biodiversity in Europe, has experienced rapid urbanisation in recent years, and this has had a significant impact on the country’s natural environment. The construction of new developments and infrastructure projects, as well as changes in land use, have led to the destruction of many wetlands, peat bogs, and other ecosystems, contributing to the loss of habitats for wildlife, including many species of birds, plants, and animals.1Anna Majewska, Małgorzata Denis, and Wioleta Krupowicz. “Urbanization Chaos of Suburban Small Cities in Poland: ‘Tetris Development’” Land 9, no. 11 (November 19, 2020): p. 461 <>


Zakole Wawerskie is a wild urban wetland located in the Wawer district of Warsaw covering extensive wet meadows, sedges, and reeds in the former floodplain of Vistula River. Part of this area was intended for agriculture and farming but over the years had been abandoned and turned into swamps and marshes that have become an urban sanctuary of wildness and biodiversity. Urban development plans, illegal construction, and private ownership are endangering the future of the site creating a tacit conflict around it. Within this context, a group of women researchers and activists started organising walks, familiarising people with the wetland and the species living there, and understanding the “complexity of relations and interests of various actors around the site”.2‘ZAKOLE – New Ways of Talking about and Experiencing Places – Blog – Mediactivism.Eu’ <> [accessed 20 December 2022]. They initially came together in the framework of a European collaboration project between Krytyka Polityczna and Erasmus seeking to explore the connection between the right to the city and climate change. Their goal was to talk about the “non-human rights to the city, exchange various types of knowledge, and understand future possible scenarios for the human and non-human habitants of the area”.3‘SWAMP GATHERING – Feralizing – New Alphabet School’ <> [accessed December 20, 2022].

The Zakole project combined a variety of observational methods, experience exchanges, and intimate gatherings looking for ways to approach the Zakole Wawerskie ecosystem.

“The main intention was to combine various cognitive methods or apparatuses: scientific, artistic, philosophical, and activist with embodied ways of learning; to advocate and observe and collect moods and knowledge, and at the same time maybe challenge the perception which is created by one specific science.”4‘CAF × Carrying Things Together’ <> [accessed 20 December 2022].

The Zakole group wanted to explore more-than-human organisms who inhabit the site, trying to present their perspective and the interdependences among all living agents. Similarly, they mediate discussions between the people who live around the area and the city officials highlighting the many layers of co-existence. They managed to raise awareness about the complex abandoned ecosystems, their importance for the city, and gather people around Zakole in a tangible and experiential manner, inviting experts from different fields to walk at a very slow pace, or installing a camera obscura and sharing their experiences on the Zakole website. For years the site was perceived as a dumping ground with wastewater, out of sight, dangerous, and not useful in other ways. Working in collaboration with scientists, biologists, and spatial practitioners, the Zakole group encouraged people to visit the site, fostering new experiences with and connections to the wetlands. Through their work, they helped identify species (beavers, mosquitoes, nettles, horsetail, wild peas, geraniums, valets, sedges, poplar, hawthorns, viburnum, rabid ants, amber snails, hub) and raise awareness about the crucial role of natural wetlands and peat bogs as both ecosystems and carbon storages. Focusing on cross-disciplinary learning processes and slow activities (performative readings, workshops of empathic drawing, meditative walking) they encouraged multiple connections to the place “tuning into the perspectives of the other-than-human-beings that live there”.5See above, CAF x Carrying Things Together This view challenges the traditional anthropocentric view that cities are designed and managed solely for human use and comfort, and recognises the importance of considering the needs and perspectives of other species and ecosystems in urban design and planning.


External links

Danube Delta rewinding initiative—a rewinding initiative based in Ukraine working to restore 40,000 hectares of wetland and terrestrial steppe habitat, with a focus on key natural processes such as flooding and natural grazing. 

NOAA Restoration Atlas—an online resource providing information and maps related to habitat restoration projects and efforts across the United States.