Ground Collapsing for Blanka

Stromovka is a 740 years old park, originally a hunting game-park for Czech monarchs. It’s a large area with various plants (trees mainly), several buildings and ponds. The latter were, and still are, watered by the famous Rudolph’s tunnel. The park has been opened for the public since1804 and during the century many new trees, including kinds from abroad, were planted. Until 1891 that is, as the construction of Výstaviště Prague Exhibition Ground began and a substantial part of Stromovka was swallowed by the new project.

It survived various misfortunes, echoes of war or natural disasters. The last blow was the damage done by the 2002 floods.
It’s still large and beautiful enough to attract Prague residents. Especially in the middle of a big, polluted city, it’s quite a valuable place.

Now there’s a bit of a nuisance. A tunnel, Blanka, is being dug under the park. Blanka is part of the famous Prague by-pass highway, an enormously expensive project that is said to take up to seven years from now to be completed. While there is probably no better choice than to build it, in case of Stromovka and Letná, the pill becomes pretty hard to swallow.

In June, a 10- m diameter hole appeared on a peaceful Stromovka meadow. The soil collapsed because of the digging that was taking place below. Luckily, no one was strolling or resting in the grass on that exact spot, the person would have quite possibly been buried alive.

Anyway, accidents happen, this was not a tragic one, so let’s just hope it won’t happen again. Well, it did happen again. In October, a 30 m diameter crater developed on the park green. Again, nobody was hurt, and it didn’t happen instantly, it was rather a process. But it caused quite a sensation- Now, for the rest of the digging, the whole endangered area on the surface is to be encircled by a fence, so the security problem seems to be solved.
The question is at what price. The price is that the park will lose its function for a time. A large part will be sealed off by an opaque fence, which could give the park a touch of a construction yard atmosphere. That doesn’t seem very desirable.

Better not to get hysterical, it’s more of a minor problem, currently entertaining the Prague media. But it reminds us, yet again, how difficult it is for a big city to solve major rise in traffic. Letná is now a construction site altogether, in relation to the same Blanka digging. It’s nice to get the main line of traffic underground, though it’s not really much more ecological: the emissions don’t get absorbed by soil, the waste will have to get to the surface through ventilation. At least it reduces the noise levels. But the future of the Letná park is as uncertain as ever and its current – though temporary – state is depressing.

It will also need at least one more bridge across Vltava, one that would serve exclusively the transit traffic. The criticism of the project is heard and it probably will be for some time. I wonder what the evaluation will be in the end, right now it’s quite a test of patience.

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