Report: Prague's green spaces under assault

The Czech Science Academy’s Environmental Committee has issued a damning report, accusing the Prague City Council of seeking to develop Prague’s green spaces and thus seriously damage the city’s already polluted air.

Prague’s current zoning plans are due to expire in 2010. This has led to a flurry of applications to Prague’s City Council for various, hitherto undeveloped land to be built upon. According to critics, the Prague City Council, rather than protect its green spaces is set to approve many of these applications. The end result would see around 570 hectares developed in the area of Štěrboholy and Dubeč. Further, green zones in the areas of Uhříněves, Sobín, Veleslavín and Vokovice would also be lost. Most disturbing of all, say critics, are plans to develop the much cherished nature reserves in Dívčí hrady and Vidoule in Prague 5.

Radim Šrám is the head of the environment committee that has published the damning report. He believes strongly that untoward pressures from developers are causing public servants to cave in to commercial interests rather than protect the city’s environment. I asked him what prompted the committee to issue this report.

“We were concerned about recent moves in Prague to change particularly many fields around Prague into development zones. This will mean that in regions which were almost understood to be reservations or national parks, would now be used for building purposes.”

And Mr Šrám believes that that will have a devastating effect on Prague’s environment:

“It means that there will be a decrease in recreation zones in Prague, which will have a longer-term effect on the health of children thanks to an increase in the levels of small particulate matter which cause so-called oxidative damage which then leads to an increase in bronchitis and asthma in children.”

And that isn’t all…

“A decrease in the number of trees in and around Prague could also have a damaging effect on climactic changes. This means that in very high temperatures, there will be an increase in mortality rates among the older population.”

Stromovka,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
The plans have also met with criticism from within Prague City Hall’s own development department. Nonetheless, despite protests from locals in the affected areas, the authorities are standing firm, telling the Czech website that the city is concurrently “creating new green areas.” Also defending the plans, a representative from Prague 5 noted that it was better to develop these areas than to continue an outward expansion of the city. But Radim Šrám remains equally and surprisingly blunt both about his beliefs about the true motivations of those in charge of Prague, and about the effect he hopes his report will have:

“They are more interested in financial issues than about ecological ones or about the ensuing health issues. Our report is designed to stimulate the public to protest against the current plans.”