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Dangerously cheap

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We have only recently written, in our paper edition (45/2008), about a new lake that is emerging in the Most region. The report has been long lost in the heap of new events. But now there is something really colossal going on quietly and slowly in the north of Bohemia.

Extraction has been slowly subsiding in all of the mines and should be completely over in some 30 years. Simultaneously with the withdrawal of the machinery, dozens of kilometres of free landscape are coming back to life. And the question of what to do with this land is resurfacing.

The sight of the abandoned mines is fascinating in its own way. It is not a treat for the eye: The dug-out ground shows that something more than strange took place here. But it is quite exciting to watch the return of grass, trees and animals into the land where all life seemed to have disappeared. Until now, the north has lived out of plundering its natural resources, and that has taken its toll both on the land and the people who lived there.

So far it seems there is no doubt about what to do with this opportunity: The mines are being filled with water one after another. One look at the map of north Bohemia from Ústí nad Labem to Sokolov reminds one of the country of a thousand lakes. And more lakes should appear.

So far the flooding has proven to work. The former mine Chabařovice near Ústí nad Labem where the author of this article used to admire the industrial elegance of a large excavator at the end of the 1990s, is today a lake with water clear for up to 4 metres below surface. Locals come to swim here and carefully talk about the lower amount of dust in the air, which is no longer as dry as it used to be.

There is another method of what to do with the hectares of the free land: let it be and see the nature when left to its own devices. Abandoned quarries in Český kras show that the result of this approach can also be worthwhile. Here also, even though on a much smaller scale, people had dug up the ground some time ago. Today it has turned into natural reserves, attracting hundreds of visitors when the weather is right.

The disadvantage if this method lies in the wait for nature to recover and become attractive enough not only for the biologists and specialists, but also for ordinary families with children. Experts estimate the time to be 20-50 years. Many people also dislike a countryside full of “uncultured ” self-seeded plants. The greatest complication, however, lies in the fact that the self-renewal of the countryside costs nothing. This, truly the cheapest solution, would deprive extraction companies of state subsidies for restoration and the restoration companies of their work. And so there is also a lack of will when it comes to leaving nature in the north to itself.

North Bohemia is still has an opportunity to gain its own Grand Canyon just like central Bohemia has its legendary Amerika quarry. There are still many places, the future of which has not been decided yet. All it takes is to proclaim some sort of non-interference zones in the north. The extractors will not exactly fight for them, but for once the expert public such as the biologists or landscape designers should raise their voices. Their ancestors might be grateful to them for that one day.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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