Fifteen million crowns from the City Hall budget will go toward preparations for the Olympic games although Prague has not yet been selected to host the 2016 games. At the same time, Slivenec, a part of Prague, will get less than half of that amount for the construction of a sewage system, which it right now lacks.

According to statistics from the beginning of 2008, nearly a tenth of the capital’s residents are without a sewage system.

“Those CZK 15 million will go toward preparing the candidacy for the Olympic project for 2020,” Mayor Pavel Bém told HN Thursday, in response to the question why the city wants to invest so much money into the Olympics when the outcome is uncertain.

Jana Novotná, a city representative for Slivenec (independent) is appalled by this amount. “Half the households in Slivenec don’t have a sewage system,” Novotná says.

Budget cuts as punishment

Praguers with similar problems also live in Suchdol. This location will get CZK 8 million for a sewage system. The local mayor knows why the amount is so low. “City Hall is punishing us for blocking the construction of the city’s ring-road,” says Petr Hejl.

Prague Mayor Pavel Bém suggested as much at a meeting of Suchdol representatives. “If a city district fights City Hall, it needs to realise it will not get anything, Bém said in a certified recording from a meeting in April 2004.

Other local town halls, which are not run by the ODS, are also complaining about low subsidies for sewage systems, as well as for similar projects. “They have promised us some money, and if we speak to the media, we will not get it. It has already harmed us in the past,” a mayor of one of Prague’s districts, which is dealing with this type of problem, told HN. He adds that the low budgets are not only the result of political pressure but also of the massive investments that City Hall is making into transportation.

The construction of the ring-road and other transportation projects have been slicing off significant chunks of the city budget in the last few years. This year, it is about 40% of the total budget, or CZK 20.8 billion.

Even Gross has puddles

Just the construction of the Blanka tunnel will cost CZK 8 billion next year. In other words, nearly half the amount that would be sufficient to bring the city’s sewage system to acceptable shape. “In the summer, the smell here is terrible. Many people are releasing raw sewage into places where they shouldn’t be,” says Růžena Uxová from Slivenec, describing a current situation in many city districts.

This city district lacks not just a sewage system but also a drainage system for rain water. Because of this, every property has puddles, including the property of former PM Stanislav Gross, who bought a house here recently.

City councilor Pavel Klega (ODS), who is in charge of the city’s water systems, rules out any political motives. “We are trying to complete projects that we have started and to move forward in a strategic manner,” he says. He says resolving the medieval situation of parts of the city’s sewage system could take up to 15 years.

Slivenec residents have been looking forward to not having to pay for sewage trucks for more than 50 years. That’s how long they have been asking for a proper sewage system. “Until we have a sewage system, we won’t have a gas pipeline. Before the start of every winter, we get calls from people asking if they should still buy coal this year, and year after year, we have to tell them that there still won’t be any gas,” say employees at the Slivenec city office.

They say several residents who live in newly-constructed houses even had to get septic tanks. The sewage pipes were too short.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.