High-Speed Rail Lines From Prague Threaten Bohemian Farmlands
The construction of a high-speed train line from Prague to Dresden could cause permanent degradation of agricultural land, according to an industry body. The planned route will affect dozens of farmers growing hops and vegetables in the Ústí nad Labem region. Growers in the Central Bohemian Region are also facing similar problems due to another branch of the planned expressway between Prague and Brno. Both areas are located in the Elbe lowlands, which have the most fertile soil in the Czech Republic. The Agrarian Chamber of the Czech Republic is in talks with the Ministry of Transport. Photo Credit: KK / BD.
Czech Rep., Apr 21 (BD) – The planned high-speed line from Prague to Dresden will cut through an area of high-value agricultural land in the Ústí nad Labem region, where, in addition to traditional cereals and oilseeds, an above-average share of the Czech Republic’s vegetables, potatoes, poppies, and mustard are grown.
“On the one hand, the country is pushing for the hop landscape to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In January 2021, the Ministry of Culture approved a nomination document for the Žatec project and the landscape of Žatec hops. On the other hand, it can place the VRT [high-speed railway] ruthlessly through an equally valuable area with a long history of hop cultivation,” said Luboš Hejda, the chairman of the Czech Hop Growers Association.
Farmers in the Central Bohemian Region are facing similar issues due to another branch of the planned expressway between Prague and Brno. Both areas are located in the Elbe lowlands, which have the most fertile soil in the Czech Republic. The construction of the expressway would most likely disrupt the functionality of the region’s irrigation system.
“The irrigation system was built in the 1970s. We have invested a lot of money to keep it active because, without irrigation, special crops cannot be grown in this area”, said Jaromír Ondra, who grows root vegetables in Chodouny.
Growers in the Central Bohemian Region are also solving similar problems due to another branch of the expressway that will lead from Prague to Brno. František Jemelka, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, said that the train line in question between Prague and Brno runs five kilometers from the Vrchlice waterworks, so it does not encroach on the protection zone of the water source.
Many farmers were disappointed that geodetic crews appeared in the area unannounced and began surveying. The construction of the expressway will also affect the neighboring company ZAS Bečváry, one of the largest maize growers in the Czech Republic, who supply gluten-free food essential for people suffering from allergies or gluten intolerance.
“The Agrarian Chamber of the Czech Republic called on the Minister of Transport Karel Havlíček (ANO) to involve farmers more in decision-making over the expressway. We understand that due to the pandemic, communication is more difficult than before, but due to the degree of intervention in the economy and landscape, we consider it necessary to involve all actors in the debate,” said Jan Doležal, President of the Agrarian Chamber of the Czech Republic.
The Agrarian Chamber of the Czech Republic called on Havlíček to gather comments from farmers on the feasibility study by the end of April before it is approved by the ministry.
The development of agricultural land is a long-term problem in the Czech Republic. By covering it with impermeable materials such as concrete or asphalt, the soil loses its natural properties and is no longer able to retain water effectively, let alone usable for growing crops.
“The expansion of cities and transport routes is, of course, an important part of territorial development, however, the state should take greater account of planning for the preservation of quality agricultural land in the Czech Republic, and not deprive future generations of it. If the goal of the Czech government is to increase food self-sufficiency, this will not be possible without maintaining the fertile soil in the Czech Republic. At the same time, there are possibilities, for example, to run traffic routes along with existing line structures,” said Doležal.
The construction of a high-speed train line between Prague and Brno is to begin in 2025, and a high-speed line to Dresden two years later. The financial costs for the construction of both lines will probably exceed a trillion crowns.