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)


Anonymous said...

Yes, barbaric!
What about a lawsuit for the mean greedy fools responsible? Even though it's too sadly late for the protection or even the repair of this damage, can they be held accountable?
And others forewarned from such tragic actions?
Even if not successful, could it not be the beginning of a revolt against these forces of short-sighted greed?
One would think it occurred in a Communist regime :-/
Mourning with you (and many thanks for your wonderful blog),
Morgan, USA

salamander said...

Thank you for the sympathetic comment. Yes, we are certainly going to try not to take it lying down. Whether we save the island is not so sure, but at least we aim to put up a fight - I shall update the blog as we go along. Fingers crossed....

Anonymous said...

They should be asked to provide details of how removing an island in the middle of a river has any impact on floods. What arrogant nonsense.
And to Morgan, I can only say that if the past few decades have proved anything, it's that greed and bureaucracy have no political preference.

Anonymous said...

Really? (she asked wryly, as the corrupt US banking industry brings down the rest of the world)

Reminds me of what I've read about Moscow & Petersburg historic bldgs coincidentally going up in flames when developers want to level them. But in this case, the next time a flood occurs, will there be any protection in place for the citizenry and this beautiful city, from those measures they say they're going to take?
How can this happen in a World Heritage city, one so fragile and which draws so much attention???

I'm really no fan of civil suits, but they have helped in some cases as shots across the bow for future shenanigans.
Let's hear it for "communtity organizers"!
Best of luck,

Patricia, UK said...

Leave a comment at the guest book on the town website. Ask which official is going to get their name on the plaque when the new embankment is opened

Thud said...

planners/pols just love to destroy and build.Making their'mark' and unveiling a plaque is worth more to them than any amount of history.