How to improve our approach to trees and city parks? An international group of students from the Wageningen University, the Netherlands, will work at this topic in Prague for two weeks, starting today. The research project is carried out in cooperation with the Arnika Association. A result of the work by thirty students will be an extensive study with concrete recommendations addressed to the Metropolitan Authority and the city districts.
The project, starting today, forms part of a master programme in Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University. „The essence of the course is extending of skills and application of knowledge the students acquired during their studies. Every year we look for a suitable project. It is very valuable if students have the opportunity to work together on a complex issue as part of their education. Real life issues represent high motivation and challenge. They offer something completely different from theoretical assignments during the courses. Moreover, in this case, we can see a real interest in the results of the research. Students have an opportunity to learn many new things,” says Karen Fortuin, one of the professors of the course.
Martin Skalský from the Arnika Association welcomes the students; research focusing on greenery. „Approach to trees is woeful in Prague. Trees significantly alleviate dustiness and air pollution which reaches similar levels in Prague as in the industrial city Ostrava. They are one of the keys to a better environment in our city,“ said Skalský. According to him, also building on green areas without a conceptual plan represents a major problem. The student research may help Prague to find system tools for protection of greenery.
Councillor of the Capital City of Prague for the environment Petr Štěpánek notes that Prague's nature parks and protected areas are an important source of biodiversity. Simultaneously, he perceives the current negative trends. „Interests of developers, speculation with land, urban sprawl in the periphery of the city, as well as demands of car traffic, endanger greenery. Powers and responsibilities are divided among the individual city districts, the Metropolitan Authority and ministries, and the authorities are not able to efficiently influence a number of harmful projects,“ said Štěpánek.
An expert on historic parks and gardens, Ina Truxová from the National Institute for Historical Monuments, emphasizes that greenery always was an important part of the city. „Not only Stromovka and game park Hvězda, or complex of gardens under the Prague Castle, but also a number of smaller green quiet places and small parks significantly contribute to unique character of Prague,“ said Truxová.
However, according to Karel Kerouš from the Czech Environmental Inspectorate, Prague is really losing its status of a green city recently, and the situation is critical. „We are witnesses of unprofessional maintenance of trees, as well as of their planned liquidation. Prague experiences massive building boom which creates substatial pressure on development of green areas. Bad approach to greenery becomes evident also in streets from which old trees have been disappearing on a massive scale. If we do not stop the trend, the city may lose its exceptional biodiversity, as well as its unique character,“ is Kerouš afraid.
“We are very happy that the research is carried out in Prague. After having studied for nine months at our university, the experience with work in another European country is an opportunity to verify the acquired knowledge in practice. We have a long lasting cooperation with the Czech University of Life Sciences and are able to use their facilities. This is invaluable for a project like this,” adds professor Karen Fortuin.
Thirty students from 13 different countries will participate in the research project called „Public and green spaces in Prague city centre: investigating ways to improve the current situation”. Students will be dividend into working groups working on policy and legislation, approach of stakeholders, environmental functions of the Prague greenery, and communication strategies. Special attention will be paid to Prague 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7. Within the framework of their two-week research, the students will meet experts, politicians, civil servants as well as representatives of NGOs.
Over the past three weeks students have been preparing the study in Wageningen. They established contacts with a number of important people who they asked for interviews. Investigation of specific places in Prague, and also questionnaire opinion poll among visitors of Prague parks, will form part of their work.
Public discussion on preliminary results of the student research will be carried out on Friday, June 6, from 10:00 in Prague Mánes (Masarykovo nábřeží 250, Prague 1). Subsequently, the students will have a month of time for preparation of a final report with concrete recommendations. After finishing of the report, the Arnika Association will hand it over to Prague authorities and politicians.
Wageningen University: http://www.esa.wur.nl/UK/
Arnika's project Save the Trees: http://stromy.arnika.org