Syndrome approach applied in Ore Mountains

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“Use” syndromes

The Sahel syndrome - excessive cultivation of margins

The Ore Mountains saw a boom in mining for metals, semiprecious and decorative stones, fluorite, and logging in the Middle Ages and modern times, and uranium mining in the post-war period, they used to have much more population than today, meaning more intensive farming, but overuse of the Ore Mountains may only refer to the post-war large-scale opencast lignite mining, which has directly threatened both the stability of their southern mountainsides by landslides into Čs. armády mine pit southwest of Černice and Horní Jiřetín, and the beech forest stands on these slopes by direct destruction by the mining, draining the groundwater, and drought from underneath due to exposing south-facing rock plates. This is therefore not a conventional case of overuse by excessive “cultivation” of margins in the sense of intensive farming or forestry.

The overuse syndrome - excessive use of natural ecosystems

The destruction of indigenous natural forest stands “en masse” in the Ore Mountains began already in the Middle Ages with the development of mining, towns, early factories and industry in the basin, for which wood was used as construction timber and an energy raw material used before and alongside coal. Like elsewhere, the indigenous mixed species and age forests in the Ore Mountains were gradually partly turned into age-identical “plantations” of spruce monoculture: much less ecologically stable, more prone to pest outbreaks, less resistant to windbreaks, less capable of performing non-production functions of forest, especially the water accumulation and soil protection functions and that of a refuge for a wide variety of other plant and animal species, thus much seriously impoverished concerning biodiversity. This first step towards destruction was then made complete by the pollution from opencast coal mining, high-density power and heating plant development, heavy metallurgical and chemical industries located in the basin below the mountains after World War II, when the spruce monoculture in the upper parts of the Ore Mountains began to die slowly: it was also exposed to the emissions as a consequence of the height of the smoke stacks; on the other hand, the beech forests in the transverse valleys and on the southern slopes survived as they were more resistant to the pollution. In an effort to conserve those at least, foresters have extended the felling interval of the beechwood, on the southern slopes in particular, meaning they are seriously overage today and it is high time they were rejuvenated. Attempts to renew the sprucewood were made in the 1970s where they had been destroyed by the pollution in the upper reaches of the mountains. However, plantings of domestic spruces failed due to continuing pollution, and the stands died again a few years later. That was why an attempt to plant the more resilient, non-indigenous blue spruce was made; it survived in some places but died in many others, and it is a far worse substitute for the domestic spruce as concerns its usability. Efforts to restore a full-fledged logging forest were therefore abandoned and, until the pollution problem would be resolved, foresters acceded to planting trees such as birches, rowans and other so-called “pioneer species”, whose task is to improve the soil, enrich it with humus, reduce its acidity and break up the crust that has formed near the ground as a result of condensation of neutralization of acid rain in a reaction with the alkaline soil components. There is no need to speak about other large-scale destruction of natural ecosystems in the Ore Mountains: if at all, it only occurs locally in connection to mining and development on a small scale so far; yet there are some potential risks, especially in connection with the development of wind and solar power plants, occupation of large areas of meadows and pastures, endangerment of wetlands and peat bogs by the amelioration effect of trenches for cables to transport the electricity generated to the grid, the need to build new access roads to these facilities, and finally, the return of sports and recreational facilities after the major air pollution sources in the basin were desulphurized or phased out in the 1990s and the situation on the Ore Mountains ridges and plateau has improved noticeably.

The countryside depopulation syndrome - environmental degradation due to abandonment of traditional farming practices

Depopulation of the entire border area after WWII – degradation, soil acidification, etc. Observable in the full width of the border area, comparison with the situation across the border.

This syndrome after World War II was much more effective than the border guards leaving their posts after 1990. The eviction of the German population deprived the area of true managers, attached to the place and its natural conditions for centuries and several generations, who had managed the farmland and the forests relatively intensively given the climate conditions; on the other hand, the farming was reduced to extensive cattle grazing after the War, arable land and plant production almost disappeared except meadow keeping, and the intensity of forestry and logging also decreased. The country received insufficient new population regarding both quantity and quality; they were recruited in part among “prospectors” who only burgled the homes abandoned by the evicted Germans and then returned home to the hinterland, in part among Slovaks, Volhynian Czechs, Ruthenians, Hungarians and Roma, relocated after the War as part of a scheme to recruit new workforce and lured with a vision of easy acquisition of housing and property, but incapable of taking over the local economy at the same level that it had attained under the original German population. Strangely enough, the formerly relatively intensively managed territory and its vegetation cover have partly returned via natural succession to “quasi-natural” ecosystems – in the non-forested areas as well as on the sites of abandoned villages and hamlets – while the forests remained much more affected by the unnatural monoculture spruce afforestation. Therefore, one can now come across enclaves of fruit trees and ornamental shrubs amidst forest, whereas the country conceals now almost disappeared remains of cellars and foundations of ruined houses, frequently used as targets in military training after the War.

The dustbowl syndrome - unsustainable agricultural-industrial exploitation of soil and water resources

This syndrome has not been observed in the Ore Mountains historically or currently. Not even in the most populous times in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century did the farming production exceed the area’s sustaining capacity limits, and the water resources were not exploited excessively. As in other parts of the country, the early 20th century saw the development of some hydraulic structures intended for accumulation of water for the industry and the population, protection of the basin from torrential rainfall; they were proportionate to the area’s landscape character and fit in well with the ecosystem (e.g., Křižatky, Křímov, Jirkov). The same does not apply with the same degree of certitude to the larger reservoirs built after World War II, motivated by the same needs of the developing industry in the basin as well as growing flood prevention efforts, as the forests were losing – for the reasons described above – their capacity to retain water, delay the drainage and so reduce the effect of torrential rainfall and the resulting flood surges on the watercourses running towards the country’s interior, such as reservoirs Přísečnice north of Klášterec nad Ohří and Fláje north of Litvínov and Meziboří. However, protection of the huge strip mines in the basin required enormous interference with the original natural drainage system of the Ore Mountains: the water flows have been intercepted above the mine pits and conducted around the mines via man-made ducts up to tens of kilometres long. Of course that altered the hydraulic conditions in the basin, which lies in the rain shadow of the Ore Mountains and as such is highly dependent on water feed off them. In consequence of the described mine protection measures, parts of the basin suffer from a lack of water, while others have excess water. That has forced water managers to build some of the largest drinking water delivery systems in the basin by connecting both surface and groundwater sources into the large North Bohemia water supply system, based on transfers of water among several catchment areas and provides reliable water supplies in spite of the above described interference with the hydraulic systems of both the mountains and the basin.

The Katanga syndrome - environmental degradation due to consumption of non-renewable resources

The Ore Mountains are past their heyday marked with mining for metallic ores, semiprecious stones, fluorite and uranium, and have been stained with no major environmental burdens with the exception of the uranium mining (spoil banks emitting increased radioactivity in particular). The area does not suffer from any large-scale construction stone quarrying. The same cannot be said about the North Bohemian Basin, where underground coal mining used to take place immediately adjacent to the southern sides of the Ore Mountains, and opencast strip mining is still in progress. Not only does it directly compromise the stability of the mountainsides and the beechwood around Jánský vrch and Chateau Jezeří, where it comes close to their bases; it also causes secondary damage due to the fact that the use of bucket-wheel excavators for removing the roof earth and the coal seam with intermediate layers does not allow any selective extraction of ceramic clay, gravel and other raw materials, which are mixed beyond all hope in the spoil heaps, meaning they are degraded and lost for any successive rational use.

The mass tourism syndrome - development and destruction of nature sites in consequence of recreation

Any high concentration of seasonal visitors, whether in the summer or winter seasons alone, is unnatural and potentially dangerous for a balance in the economic, social and environmental areas. Unlike the Giant Mountains, Jeseníky or Šumava, however, the Ore Mountains have not had an opportunity to achieve any overload due to sporting and recreational activities after decades of environmental degradation. Most of the facilities for tourism, sports and recreations built in the latter half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century as factory holiday facilities, as well as the additional recreational capacities in the basin spa towns, are overage and disappointing, requiring expensive renovation or replacement with new facilities. Notable crowds have been received in the winter season by the skiing resorts at Klínovec in the west and Buřňák and Telnice in the eastern part of the Ore Mountains. The chairlift from Bohosudov up to Komáří vížka north of Teplice is an attractive yet solitary tourist destination. New cross country skiing trails are being developed and maintained on the Ore Mountains plateau and mushing races are taking off, but developed facilities for summer recreation are lacking, including good cycling paths, public baths (the attempt to build an aqua park in Bublava was a fiasco), etc. Therefore, the Ore Mountains do not suffer from the mass tourism syndrome. The contrary is true: they still have a great unused potential, which is even boosted by the opening of the German border and better transport links and co-operation with German tourist destinations in the northern parts of the mountains, such as (west to east) Klingenthal, Johann-Georgenstadt, Oberwiesenthal, Annaberg-Buchholz and Bärenstein, Olbernhau, Kurort Seiffen, and Zinnwald-Altenberg-Geising. This might attract clients from abroad to the Czech part of the Ore Mountains, only it would require offering the visitors something attractive, of which there is not much at present.

The scorched earth syndrome - environmental destruction due to wars and military actions

Since time immemorial, the Ore Mountains have been a natural protective bulwark for the Bohemian Basin and thus all of the Kingdom of Bohemia, the northern frontier of Austria-Hungary and Czechoslovakia later on; even the Czech Republic; however, military campaigns usually averted their ridges and plateau via nearby passes, especially Nakléřov Pass in the east. That was the point of penetration for Napoleonic French, Prussian, Austrian-Hungarian and Russian troops, and one of the battles of the Napoleonic Wars took place in the area in 1813, as attested by memorials of the involved armies at Přestanov, Chlumec and Telnice; it was through here that one of Nazi Germany’s line of troops arrived to occupy Sudetenland in 1938 and the rest of Bohemia in 1939; this was the way for the USSR’s tank army at the end of WWII when liberating Czechoslovakia in May 1945 and the occupation armies of the GDR and USSR in 1968. Oddly enough, most damage and death toll in the Ore Mountains were caused by the Napoleonic battles in the early 19th century; the largest amount of devastation was done by evicting the German population after WWII, resulting in the abandonment and destruction of many former settlements, homesteads, houses, factories, small water reservoirs, spring wells, association and cultural facilities, hiking paths, lookout towers, tourist inns, lookouts, churches, chapels, crucifixion columns, etc., which had belonged to the way of life and seal of responsible exploitation of the country, its natural resources and man-made reservoirs by the original population. The new arrivals often regarded this wealth as enemy acquisitions, loot, something that could be destroyed without remorse. That also made it easier to permit such an enormous devastation of the landscape, nature and settlements by the opencast lignite mining in the basin, associated with the destruction of more than 100 villages and towns, fertile land and enormous natural wealth including spa towns (formerly Klášterec nad Ohří, later on Kyselka near Karlovy Vary and recently also Bílina).

“Development” syndromes

The Aral Sea syndrome - environmental damage to landscape due to large-scale projects

The scale of the projects and the degree of areal burden are crucial. If they exceed the adaptation and regeneration capacities, the damage is irreversible. It is therefore crucial for controlling human activities to define the “degree” properly, which is usually difficult to do and difficult to defend against the pressure of business interests and money unless we learn to make a routine use of tools such as Seják’s or Dejmal’s economic assessment of ecosystem services and comprehensive project assessment in light of inputs and utilities, including externalities and throughout the effective period, not only the investor’s initial investment. The tolerable threshold has been fatally exceeded in the Ore Mountains as concerns the method, scale and extent of lignite mining, high density of power and heating plants, heavy industry in the basin, and their negative environmental impacts on both the basin and the mountains, impacts on the health of their population, the nature and landscape, the hydraulic system, the social composition of the population. The implications last to this day, and the battle is not over: see the attempts to break through the “territorial ecological mining limits” by the ČSA mine towards Černice and Horní Jiřetín and Litvínov. So far the efforts have failed to reverse the thinking of the North Bohemian business circles and public administrators and to refocus the region’s economic profile away from mining, power generation and heavy industry towards the tertiary sector: growth in services, healthcare, spa care, social welfare, tourism, and partial return of the primary sector to reclaimed mining areas and more sophisticated secondary-sector products and technologies that are less material and energy-intensive and achieve a higher valuation of inputs with less adverse implications for the environment and public health. The region has not come to that yet.

The green revolution syndrome - environmental degradation due to introduction of inappropriate management techniques

It seems nothing of this kind is a risk for the Ore Mountains, unless the attempt to change the current mixed forest stands in place of the dead spruce monocultures back to a spruce monoculture logging forest, and unless farmers try to drain the existing wetland on the plateau or change the existing meadows and pastures into fields on a large scale, as their permanent grassland protects the soil from wind and water erosion. A potential risk may arise from intensified cattle farming or expansion of farm or preserve artificial game production, as has been the case from time to time in the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, I do not know about anything of this kind in the Ore Mountains (as opposed to the Lužické Mountains).

The Asian tiger syndrome - ignoring of environmental standards in the process of rapid economic growth

The Ore Mountains did not undergo any such era in the Middle Ages or the early modern times, where intensive mining was going on and mining towns were founded, and let us hope that the Basin is now past the era as well. New risks of this type might arise from developing recreation and tourism as well as transport if the public administrators fail to responsibly define and enforce observation of adopted regulations for human activities using land-use planning and environmental impact assessment as tools. Another important factor will be which way the Basin industries will focus: whether they choose to keep their existing products and technologies or refocus on technologies and products that do not harm the environment. I cannot think of any other risks.

The favela syndrome - environmental degradation due to unrestrained urban growth

In the Ore Mountains as such, there are no major settlements with a development potential that would attract as many new people as to having to build favela-type makeshift accommodation. Nothing like that is a threat in the Basin either. However, in some towns immediately adjacent to the mountains such as Rotava, Nejdek, Chodov, Ostrov, Klášterec n. O., Kadaň, Chomutov, Jirkov, Most, Litvínov, Lom, Osek, Bílina, Duchcov, Teplice, Krupka and Ústí nad Labem, some parts may turn into ghettos for Romany and other less adaptive and less easily integrated populations, which may result in both a degradation of their accommodation facilities (see Chanov housing estate near Most) and major coexistential defects and even open conflict (Chomutov council distraining debtors’ social allowances, the recent open conflict with violence in Janov housing estate in Litvínov, Romany violence on a Gadjo in Krupka-Bohosudov with a racial undertone, and more). These issues call for solutions: you could as Milan Šťovíček, the new MP for Věci veřejné and former mayor of Litvínov (then ODS).

The urban sprawl syndrome - destruction of landscape due to planned expansion of urban infrastructures

But for hints of such developments around Karlovy Vary and near Teplice to Ústí nad Labem along the eastern foothills, nothing of this kind is a real risk in and below the Ore Mountains at the moment, although things may change if the environment improves even more and the economies of the Basin towns revive so that the area again becomes attractive for new settlers. Only locals have been building so far: in Skorotice and Božtěšice in Ústí nad Labem; areas around Karlovy Vary are newly settled by a specific group of investors: a numerous Russian community, taking residence on an unprecedented scale, using funds probably illegally acquired in Russian and elsewhere to corrupt local public administrators and ignore the country’s regulations, which somehow irritates not only locals. An alarming case is a Mr. Styepanov, who is building a Russian village inside Slavkovský les PLA illegally; corrupt Karlovy Vary building authority has “whitewashed” it properly for him.

The serious accident syndrome - unique human-induced environmental disasters with long-term impacts

The Ore Mountains saw its environmental disaster in the latter half of the 20th century, when the spruce forests died as described above. The consequences of the soil acidification will last for decades, and full-fledged forest may be expected to return in a hundred years. A potentially dangerous factor is the growing climate fluctuations, more frequent thunderstorms, torrential rains, and destructive winds, because the Ore Mountains are the first major terrain obstacle in the generally north-westerly flow of humid and (in summer) warm ocean air across the German plains to Central Europe, and their deforestation has reduced their natural accumulation capacity and ability to extend the drainage period into longer periods. There is thus a potential risk of floods in the Basin rather than one for the Ore Mountains as such. If we ignore the risk of rupture of the dams in a seismic event or as a consequence of detonations caused by the lignite mining below the southern mountainsides, leaks of dangerous chemicals or fires in the chemical plant in Litvínov-Záluží or the chemical and metallurgical compound in Ústí nad Labem, practically no other natural or human-induced disaster with potential impacts away in the Ore Mountains can be taken into account.

“Slump” syndromes

The smokestack syndrome - environmental degradation due to large-scale spread of substances surviving in the environment for a long time

The Ore Mountains have been experiencing this syndrome since the beginnings of the industrial development in the Basin in the 19th century and, on a slightly increased scale, until the end of the First Republic; it escalated after World War Two, and the soil contamination with pollutants from both air and precipitation caused by it has continued until this day, although the pollution concentrations and compositions have less adverse effects now. The situation has not been relieved by airplane lime application either, as it has had other secondary adverse impacts, because it does achieve a neutralization of the acidified soil, but it introduces a foreign element into the environment to which neither the local plants nor animals, whether indigenous or not, are not adapted; as a result, the lime application has some beneficial effects but it also contributes to a destruction of those autochthonous societies that have survived. It is like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The waste deposition syndrome - environmental degradation due to controlled and uncontrolled waste disposal

A newly occurring risk in the areas along the German border is the attempted illicit deposition of waste the proper disposal or deposition of which is subject to payment in both German and the Czech Republic. There are some entrepreneurs-idiots who will cover up such “waste imports” with a fictitious design to recycle or reuse such waste without really intending to, so they develop no capacities for such handling and only cash in remuneration for their barbarism and lack of respect to their country. When caught, they will try to set the imported “intermediate repository” on fire to get rid of the waste on the spot. Unfortunately, the sparsely populated Ore Mountains, being a vast area with no effective public supervision by the population, visitors, mountain rescue and police, are a destination for such efforts by both Germans and Czechs. Perhaps you could ask some freshly elected MPs: Rudolf Chlad, Head of Ore Mountains Rescue Service, or David Kádner, a former staffer of the security service in Nová Ves v Horách; our common friends include Petr Pakosta from Hora Sv. Kateřiny and perhaps above mentioned Milan Šťovíček and PaeDr. Jiří Roth from Chomutov back when they were still in public administration.

The contaminated soil syndrome - local contamination of environmental assets in industrial areas

See above comments.

Other conflicts not described above

Conflict between generations concerning the perception of possible coexistence with Germans

In the area along the German border, there are noticeable differences in how Germany and Germans are perceived by people who witnessed the end of the First Republic and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia during the War, the generation born right after the War and raised by the previous one under a communist government, and the younger, not post-war generations, who are impeded by neither their own adverse memories nor the communist indoctrination. The young ones no longer lend an ear to threats of Sudeten Germans returning or claiming compensations for their eviction and lawlessly confiscated property and impose a collective blame on the entire German Sudeten population, whereas the old ones are still sensitive to that, and many Czech politicians still succeed in playing that game and ghosting around (all of the Communist Party, Klaus, Bobošíková, and others). Yet cross-border co-operation with neighbouring municipalities and people in Germany, who are now recovering from the much similar heritage of the communist (SED) rule in former East Germany and also need to pick up somehow, is a chance for revival in this country too. The West German, Bavarian side, which is richer than Saxony and took up patronage over the interests of the evicted Germans after the War, shows evident efforts to help restore at least parts of the shared natural and cultural heritage in the Czech borderland. However, it should not be one-sided aid from Germans to Czechs. We should show an effort to restore the disrupted relations, forgive, admit errors, claim the common heritage and contribute our share instead of just accepting aid from the outside without adequately protecting proofs of mutual forgiveness, as has been the case around Broumov. We do want to be Europeans together and live in peace, or do we not?

Conflict of conservation status in the Ore Mountains versus economic development, e.g. wind and photovoltaic power plant development

A crucial problem when handling these conflicts and problems in this country is the irreconcilability of views, lingering in extreme and one-sided opinions, continuing overt specialization, inability to communicate in civilized ways, and failure to search for mutually acceptable solutions even if each party would have to back off a bit from their so-called “rights and powers”. When protecting the landscape character, the MoE underrates not only the economic and social pillars of sustainability but, strangely enough, even some aspects of the environmental pillar: an inability to distinguish between areas and admit that the new structures may enrich the country in some places rather than ruining it, while they cannot be admitted in other places for various reasons. It is a question of measure and case-by-case assessment as well as a nation-wide consideration: no other place in the Czech Republic has such favourable wind conditions outside the two highest-level protected nature sites (national parks and protected landscape areas) that the Ore Mountains have.

Prague, 2 June 2010

Creative Commons Author: Martin Říha. This article was published under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. How to cite the article: Martin Říha. (24. 04. 2019). Syndrome approach applied in Ore Mountains. VCSEWiki. Retrieved 03:49 24. 04. 2019) from: <>.

This page was created with support of the OP VK CZ.1.07/2.4.00/17.0130 Project - Interdisciplinary Sustainable Development Network

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