Saturday, 14 March 2009
Barbaric? The sad demise of a jewel
A few days ago, there was a shockwave going through the town. Phones rang, people stopped eachother in the street: have you seen what's happening??? And down by the riverside, shocked groups wondered about like lost souls, shaking their heads in disbelief - one by one, 21 beautiful, mature trees were being felled in front of their eyes. Some even hundreds of years old. Huge pieces of machinery were carving deep ruts in the soft banks as their hungry teeth and jaws picked the fallen trunks, some up to 120cms in diameter, dragging them away like powerless matchsticks. 'You can't do this'! shouted those who were able to find some voice through their tears. To no avail, of course: the workmen had permission, this is all completely legal so what's the fuss? And when the trees are felled, it'll be the turn of the small narrow island that for centuries provided the so often photographed, soft, green contrast to the stone and cobble architecture of this picturesque town, and was a home to a much loved population of wild ducks - just getting ready to raise their young.
People of Cesky Krumlov (like so many others?) roughly divide into two kinds: ordinary citizens, and politicians/bureocrats. And then there are a few who occasionally try to have their words heard (some hope!). And so very quickly a petition was put together, hundreds of signatures are being collected still - but of course everyone knows it won't help because - as usual - this barbaric idea got through the planning stages as cleverly as so many others. 'There will be some flood prevention works on the embankment', we were told, but the details were subject to a 'special regime', so no mention that the ancient trees, mostly willows that ancestors planted precisely to prevent the banks from eroding during high water, would be felled, and certainly not a mention of the planned demise of the small island that was a mini-nature reserve in itself, home not just to the ducks but also to a (locally rare) bird Motacilla cinerea, a diverse population of rare species of insects, and to the occasional otter. One stroke of a bureocratic pen, and voila! all gone.
I am watching an old woman, frail but dignified: 'flood prevention?' she says. 'No; it's the way forests are managed, water-meadows and peat bogs are kept, that floods are prevented. It's in management of outflow from Lipno dam - not here. Casing the banks in concrete? What arrogance... how can you try to outwit Nature?' Her neighbour chipped in: 'Someone somewhere got their hands on a grant, it's that simple'.
Could it really have been that simple?
(the picture below is a reverse pov of the embankment last Summer: the trees within the marked circle are no longer here)