Czech government seeks ways of getting to grips with drought conditions

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic is experiencing its worst drought in the last 12 years with some parts of the country having hardly seen any major rainfall for a month. Ministries are now looking at ways of dealing with a situation that threatens to become a more regular feature in the future.

Photo: CTK
Limits on farmers taking water from rivers for crops or livestock, bans on using mains water for watering plants, filling swimming pools, or washing cars. Such measures are already in force across large parts of the country, especially in worst hit Moravia, as the Czech Republic faces the worst drought since 2003. Bans on lighting fires in forests apply across nearly the whole county.

River levels are on average around half their normal levels for this time of the year. But even sporadic rainfall will not bring much relief. The problem goes much deeper, literally. Basically, the long-term lack of rainfall means that in many parts of the country the earth is dry tens of centimetres down and it will take persistent rainfall to deal with that problem.

That is the reason why some vineyard owners in the south of the country already have fears. While well- established plants have no trouble resisting the drought, those in the ground for only a few years are vulnerable. Other crops, such as barley, hops, and even livestock could soon be threatened by the drought as well. Fish farms are already warning that some fish are already dying because of low water levels and lack of oxygen.

Richard Brabec,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Weather experts point out one basic fact: the Czech Republic is not only at the heart of Europe, it is also, in rainfall respects at least, also its roof as well. It’s the source of many major rivers but there are none coming though it from elsewhere. So, the country is all the more reliant on local rainfall.

The drought has helped concentrate the minds at the ministries of agricultural and environment especially and with good reason. This is what Minister of the Environment Richard Brabec has to say on Thursday. “The Czech Republic is today quite well prepared for dealing with flooding but it is not at all prepared for dealing with drought.”

Among some of the measures being considered are higher charges for pumping underground water reserves. More reservoirs or ponds could be built so that greater water reserves are on hand during droughts. And existing dams could be cleaned of sediment so that their storage capacity will be greater. Households and farmers could also be encouraged to take their own steps to store or make use of rainwater instead of drawing on public supplies. There is also talk of resurrecting the airborne fire service to tackle forest and other fires in drought, though arguments between the ministry of interior and agriculture appear to raging over who will take responsibility for it.

Photo: CTK
Minister of Agriculture Marian Jurečka says ministries and other institutions should contribute to a long term plan for dealing with drought which should be prepared by mid-2017. The planning should include a long-range forecast over the next 20 years of where and how often the worst problems will be.

In the meantime, some farmers, especially in South Moravia, are already experimenting with the cultivation of more exotic plants including olives, figs, water melons, and bananas.