Environmentalists lose battle over Plzen by-pass

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Environmentalists have lost a 10-year battle over the planned construction of a by-pass around the West Bohemian city of Plzen. On Wednesday the High Court in Prague issued what is a final verdict on the case, ruling that the Ministry for Regional Development's construction plans were in order and that construction could now go ahead. Both the Ministry and Plzen residents have heaved a sigh of relief - construction work on the much-needed by-pass around the city can finally begin. Daniela Lazarova called Radio Prague's Plzen correspondent - Premysl Rosulek - to find out how the news had been received by local residents, politicians and the media.

Premysl Rosulek: All people here are very happy about the decision of the High Court. The city's local politicians celebrated in the High Court building yesterday, drinking wine, and I think that they have communicated with the court authorities long-term, and made a big effort to influence the court's decision.

Radio Prague: In favour of this route?

PR: Yes, in favour of this route.

RP: But you just mentioned that there is a river there that is important for Plzen residents. Are they not worried about damage to this river that may now be caused?

PR: Not really. Plzen politicians have managed to convince people that environmental activists are trying to block the project, that they are to blame for the endless construction delays and people ended up believing that its construction by any road would be a major success and would help to alleviate the city's pollution problems. However, statistics show that just 10 percent of cars using the highway actually transit Plzen, that at least two thirds of cars entering the city are actually bound for it and would not be using the by-pass anyway. This suggests that even if the by-pass is built it is not going to make people happy or satisfied because in my opinion this highway around Plzen is not going to solve the city's pollution and traffic problems.

RP: So you don't actually see this verdict as a victory of common sense. It was very polarised from what I understand and a very emotional issue on both sides?

PR: Yes, it is a very emotional issue. For instance environmental activist Jan Rovensky has got a cottage on the route which the High Court has now approved, while a parliament deputy is known to have a house along the alternative route which environmentalists favoured. So from my point of view it was a very emotional issue and the arguments of both sides were wrapped up in emotions.

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Přemysl Rosůlek
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