Monday, 30 March 2009

Flood Control and Willows

The Town Council is arguing that the way to control floods in Cesky Krumlov is to cut down the willows and to remove the natural banks on which they stand with concrete walls. There are several arguments against their plans - a) the aesthetic one, most of the time the river is low and the concrete will look awful, especially in this UNESCO heritage site, b) the heritage one, they are destroying an island which has been around for centuries, c) wildlife - the island is home to nesting birds and even occasionally plays host to otters. But I for one am not convinced that what they are proposing is the best way to control flooding either.

The key thing to note is that flooding is not common in Cesky Krumlov - in fact they are planning for a 100 year flood event. How can such a rare event justify such vandalism? Now as it happens flooding is common in Gloucestershire (my English home), indeed it is pretty common in Britain fullstop. In the UK we have rather moved away from constantly resorting to concrete walls, preferring to "focus on ways that work with nature, not against it" (in the words of the UK Government). Part of that strategy is the use of willows and other riverside trees to bind the river banks. There has been some fascinating approaches which create riverwalls from living woven willow (example shown above).

Equally important is to address the cause of the flooding rather than the flood. Locally the general view is that the last big flood was caused by someone opening the sluices on Lake Lipno and releasing a huge amount of water into the River Vltava, which swept down and flooded the towns, such as Cesky Krumlov, along its banks. The simple answer would then appear to be, don't open the sluice gates like that!

For an account of the open meeting of the Krumlov Town Council, visit

If you want to help the protest you can do two things - 1/email the Town Hall (addressed to the Mayor, Ing. Luboš Jedlička) c/o adding your name in support of the petition of March 2009 that asks for the retaining of the small island under Lazebnicky bridge
2/ write to UNESCO and ask whether they are aware of this situation, the citizens' protests, and the extent of damage the projected works may cause. The name and contact details

1 comment:

Karen said...

Is there a Brit expert on "working with nature to prevent flooding" through the use of willows that might be helpful to the Town Council? Maybe they just need to hear alternative solutions like the one you're describing. I can appreciate the responsibility they feel to prevent destruction from a once-in-a-century flood, but it sounds like the net hasn't been cast wide enough for all possible solutions.


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