Saturday, 23 May 2009

UNESCO Acts, Let Us Hope In Time

We have heard that UNESCO has asked Cesky Krumlov Town Council a series of questions about the riverworks , to which it requires answers by Monday. All of us who have been expressing our fears about the environmental and heritage impact of the works are incredibly grateful to UNESCO for this. Only UNESCO has the power to (at least temporarily) halt the damage and only then I believe if there have been procedural faults in the approval process. We need UNESCO to ensure that the response it receives is full and verifiable - we have been unable to do so ourselves. And we need UNESCO if it finds faults to act on them. Our main desire is to stop and repair (where possible) the damage. We certainly do not want the World Heritage Site status removed, it is our main hope of protecting this precious town.

To elaborate:

a) there is a need for speed in any action that is taken, given the rate with which the damage is being done and continues to be done. Is there any way UNESCO could ask for the works to be paused while they consider the report?

The authorities have only been working on the area under Cesky Krumlov Castle for a week but look what has happened in that time. A temporary island has been formed consisting of material which has been dredged up from the riverbed by the diggers. The transformation can be seen by comparing my photos above with the panorama show on the Council's own website

I was able to identify within the rubble a number of stones which appear to have been elements of man-made structures. A number more are lying on the shore (see photos below), including a date stone showing MDCXXV.

b) The second issue is this: inside the Town Hall UNESCO's request will have been met with alarm, especially as the Town Hall (unlike with UNESCO's previous report) has so little time to respond. If the Town Hall has the answers to UNESCO's questions then they should have no problem. But given their inability to answer the questions of objectors, including requests for detailed plans, one suspects that this is not the case. The onerous task of responding will have fallen on the local Branch of The National Institute for th Protection and Conservation Of Monuments and Sites. The officers involved are employed by the Town Council.

There appear to have been several procedural faults. It appears there are no minutes of any committee that approved this project. It is my understanding that, in order for the outline permission to be given, the conservation officers' agreement would be needed, but that for the later detailed plans and changes to the outline that officers 'views might not have been sought. Clearly some permission was given but on the basis of what? What important changes and additions were there in the final plans (if they exist)? Did they for example include the removal of the island? What permission was given at this stage and again on the basis of what?

The officers involved are dedicated professionals, who are between a rock and a hard place. I know from personal experience the pressure that one comes under from politicians and other officers in such circumstances, and that was in the UK where there is a long tradition of an independent civil service which exists to serve the people not its political masters. Any report written in such circumstances needs to be considered very carefully, in the end it's only verifiable evidence that can be believed.

Obviously I have no knowledge of the content of the report, nor do I have access to it. But then nobody else has either.

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