Saturday, 23 May 2009

The protest - a response from UNESCO

We have news that the Town has been asked by UNESCO to produce a report on the Flood prevention project, by this coming Monday.

In case it helps, here is a brief summary of just the one part of the huge project - regarding the island I so passionately blogged about:

The island was de-facto removed on Monday 18.5.

  • Despite of the post-flood petition from the riverside residents in the year 2002, asking for a clearance of debris and some small alteration to the left bank. The Town Hall now bandies this petition about as its sole reason for having commissioned the Flood prevention project. ('It was only because residents asked for it...') The petition did not ask for the removal of the corpus of the island, neither has it asked for a great number of mature trees to be felled right in the middle of the heritage site..
  • Despite of an open letter of 12.3.09 asking for the island to be retained
  • Despite of the public open letter that collected in April 09 800+ signatures over a single weekend. The open letter asked for the retention of the island.
  • Despite of a new petition of the riverside residents, of 3.4.09, which contradicts the Town Hall's press releases that the project was done at their behest, and reaffirms that they wish for the island - or at least a part of it, as compromise - to be retained.
  • Despite of the fact that the un-ecological manner of the works contravenes several EU directives for such projects
  • And despite an absence of any verifiable explanation, or officially accessible scientific or project documentation that would justify the total removal.of the island, the trees, and, indeed much other damage that is still being done in the name of this project, such as
  • concrete-structured banks at a utilitarian angle running along most of the river edge within the historic centre
  • an - as yet unexplained - iron turntable weir to replace the existing stone one under the castle
  • the 'taming' of the river course including a removal of a protected historic bridge on the river Polecnice, a tributary to Vltava - which threatens to increase its flow into the very town centre that the works are meant to protect.
The Town Hall will surely have done their homework in response to UNESCO's call. I can only hope that what they produce is not the usual whitewash: the way the protesters' requests were treated - with absence of proofs, polite sarcasm and downright ridicule - would surely not wash when Unesco asks similar questions, would it.

Meanwhile here is a link to a short video on the official Cesky Krumlov website, which shows off Krumlov's beauty; ironically, it is of the island with its trees still intact :-)
Should they not replace it with a new video showing what it looks like now???

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

ducks at the ex-island

No photo this time as my blog is about dusk - My friend and I sat at the riverbank and watched the ducks' confusion as they swam and flew about the sad few tufts and stones that still stick out of the river where the island has been (the digging hasn't yet completely finished). The saddest of all was the fact that there was only a single duckling among them. Just the one. Its mum was leading it here and there around the place where presumably their nest would have been, but the river was flowing over it and so the whole effort was futile. My companion remarked how last year we watched from the same place whole families - trains of 6-9 ducklings each following their mums into the tall grasses of the island of an evening.
We also saw tonight the pair of ex-resident wagtails, also confused. Only the local blackbird sat atop the church spire singing his heart out as if nothing was amiss :-)

We then went upstream and saw not a single duckling, let alone a family of ducklings anywhere. Might be able to take some photos tomorrow when it's daylight, but for now I just had to write down what I saw. Oh, well, maybe I am being sentimental, maybe this is such a small thing in the whole scheme of things and the world of course goes on - but I have to say that my blood boils. After all it's the little things that, put together, make the world what it is. And by our interfering with it we all carry the responsibility for changing it for better or worse, aren't we. I am so sorry we failed in our efforts to save the island, really am.

Monday, 18 May 2009

This afternoon at 2pm the digger arrived at the island. Our protests and all those signatures against the removal of the island were in vain. Crunch - the first bite and the ducks scattered, forming little protective groups around the little ducklings, still very young.
The resident birds flew up, screeching in panic. And then we watched as, scoop after scoop, what remained of the little urban nature reserve was destroyed. Wild flowers, roots, reeds, water gladioli...
They told us that they will build a new - much smaller - island instead. But will the concrete island ever be able to serve the wildlife for whom the natural island was a safe home?Poor old Krumlov too: the old houses shall be framed by a concreted river. And what of its people? On the opposite bank from us, an Italian has been running a very successful and much beloved cafe, whose terrace is a picture of lovely greenery, where visitors from all over the world like to sit and enjoy the riverside under the castle. The Italian came to Krumlov some 20 years ago - but despite his long residency here he hasn't yet been able to find out from the Town hall whether his terrace will be bulldozed away or not! Even today, he still didn't know, whilst the bulldozer ate away at the island in front of his eyes. 'What will you do if they take your terrace away?', I asked. He shrugged: 'Go back to Italy'.This is a town that lives and breathes tourism - it is its only real source of income. If more people like this hard-working cafe owner leave, if more tourists, or even UNESCO, get fed up with a town that makes life of its residents and visitors harder and uglier by the day, if massive signature campaign doesn't produce a democratic result, what will the Town hall live on? One can bake the goose that lays golden eggs and have a fabulous dinner, but there will be no more golden eggs after that.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

on a sweeter note...

I was in a bit of a mood this morning when telling you about the river works in Krumlov. But how can one be sad or cross, when a little spirit comes along to say 'stop it'?

Protest? What protest?

I seem to be surrounded by diggers, both at the lake house and now here in Krumlov too. But while the lake house digging should, I hope, result in something positive, here in Krumlov I feel simply depressed. What can I say? All our efforts to at least moderate the impact of the works on the natural urban landscape of this jewel of a town have been met with whitewash, sarcasm and utter lack of relevant information.I took a dawn walk along the river today - the weir under the castle is already prepared for remodelling (you can see the water being diverted from it to the sluices only) - but we have not been able to see ANY plans for the proposed metal 'turning barrier' that is supposed to replace it. The Town Hall is issuing various press releases where it proclaims itself as the saviour of the town but no actual scientific facts or any studies why this should be so have been published. Judging by the only thing I know for sure, which is that the island (see previous posts) is definitely going to be removed and replaced by a small concrete one - a fact that is being sold to the public (and to UNESCO?) as the Town Hall's generous sop to the protestors, I doubt that anything else they say can possibly be reliable. So now, as the result of all our protest efforts, we are to be responsible for an ugly bit of concrete; what irony.

I wrote to the Town Hall, suggesting that they might as well populate their concrete 'island' with plastic ducks and astroturf, as no living creature would want to make its home on it. I wouldn't be surprised if they take my suggestion seriously.