These and other questions will be addressed by the team of students from Dutch university in Wageningen in course of their research, launched today in the Czech capital. They have chosen a very timely theme, given the actual climatic changes and frenetic construction boom on thus far empty lots.
The students will spend next two weeks in Prague exploring the local situation and talking to the experts, bureaucrats or politicians. At today’s introductory seminar they will be given a basic background information for their research from the specialists of several institutions; for instance from the Czech High Technical teaching, Prague City Hall, Ministry of Environment, Vltava River Basin Authority and Prague Water Pipelines and Sewage Systems, Inc.“Prague and especially some of her districts are currently undergoing the vast transformations, or their development is just being prepared. The aim of this survey is, among other things, to find out whether or not the planned city development puts in danger the living environment, particularly the water regime of a countryside,” has pointed out Jakub Esterka from ARNIKA, regarding one of the research goals. The research stems out from Prague´s new territorial plan concept and from publicized major developmental projects. For this year’s research project, five Prague districts have been chosen; all of them are presently undergoing significant transformation or facing it in the near future; they are as follows:
Prague 7 (reconstruction of railway station Bubny and of district Zátory),
Prague 13 - Zličín (zone of suburban shopping centres),
Karlín - Libeň (reconstruction of the islands Libeňský and Rohanský),
Hostivař - Záběhlice (Trojmezí) and
Štěrboholy - Dubeč (proposed Západní Město-Western satellite city)
“Often we can see the construction taking place without responsible assessment of its impact on the whole city organism and on the surrounding countryside. The research findings should help to define our possibilities as well as eventual threatening problems, “ remarked Martin Skalský, who has been involved in long term collaboration with a team from Dutch university. The research will be focused on the legal aspects of regulations and forms of decision-making; to decide on the “principal actors” and their interactions, to define an analysis of technologies and of infrastructure, water ecosystem services in the city, territorial analysis and a solution proposal for the water cycle in each selected city district.
The students will also be investigating to what extent is the decision-making about Prague’s future opened to the public and how much are the citizens able to influence this decision-making process.
Altogether 30 students of graduate studies in the Urban Environmental Management field from 20 different countries of all continents will participate in this research. There are also several students from Czech Republic among them. “The aim of this year’s European workshop is to collect the information to be used consequently for implementing the sustainable water management in Prague and her environs. The water management in the city includes the quality and quantity of water bodies, as well as the systems of drinking water supply or sewage system. With regard to the preparation of a new territorial plan and ever growing construction in Prague, it is necessary to examine potential chances and stumbling blocks,” clarified the research goals its coordinator and University Wageningen professor Bas van Vliet. “Apart from producing the consultation report, the students will improve their research and consulting skills, as for example a short term data collection, leading interviews, make inquiries, presentations and most of all- conducting the complex project,“ added Bas van Vliet.
Sustainable water management is the important component of a territorial planning. Apart from the water system as such, a water chain or cycle in the city landscape is equally important. It includes industrial and drinking water supply, sewerage, waste water treatment as well as recycling and a return of the water back into this cycle. All rain water falling on every newly built-up area is not absorbed by the soil, but has to be drained away, eventually used for some other purpose. As indicated by the example of recent floods, with spread of built-up areas, which cannot absorb the rain water, the importance of finding a better manner of water retention in the countryside has been ever growing. The rules for dealing with rain water for new buildings are established by now; this nonetheless does not solve the problem of already built-up areas.
The water supply system in Prague is very old, although its painstaking reconstruction has been in effect since 1997. Prague was one of the first European cities with a central sewerage and water treatment plant. This means, however, that a great part of such infrastructure, particularly in the city centre, is obsolete and in need of repair. Otherwise there is a threat of additional water losses, which made up in the year 2005 25% of water production.
Long-term cooperation of Arnika with the University Wageningen has brought this year the students to Prague for already the third time. Previously, they were concerned with the greenery in Prague and with reconstruction of Prague’s four railway stations. “Even though each time a different team is involved, the students can, thanks to long term cooperation, draw on previous research findings. They acquire diverse experiences, broader, unbiased view and inspiring ideas for problem solution, which we from our perspective often don’t see clearly enough,” remarked Martin Skalský. Worth attention is also the scientific approach of student research. Simultaneously with so called “geo-groups”, concerned with five selected city districts, their individual members get involved in yet another five expert teams with exact specialization. Moreover, in each group there is at least one Czech-speaking student.
The project lasts altogether 9 weeks- during the first 4 weeks the students spend on theoretical preparation, 2 weeks will last their field research directly in Prague and the last phase they will dedicate to the elaboration of compiled information and findings. At the end of their Prague stay there will be a presentation for all participants. The conclusions from entire project will then be elaborated by Arnika in the publication, addressed first of all to the state administration and other executive institutions.