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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Court blocks start of building work on disputed Dresden bridge to protect rare bat
9 August 2007

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) - A tiny, little-known species of bat has achieved what months of political debate, court cases and a threat by UNESCO could not -- halting construction of a new bridge across the Elbe River valley, at least for now.

A Dresden administrative court on Thursday issued an injunction blocking the planned start of construction next week on the long-disputed traffic bridge over the Elbe on the edge of the eastern German city. It ruled that the bridge could threaten the habitat of the lesser horseshoe bat.

Three local environmental organizations had sought the injunction, court spokesman Robert Bendner said. Judges ruled the construction plans failed to address sufficiently whether the bridge would damage the habitat of the bats, considered an endangered species.

Construction of the four-lane Waldschloesschen bridge was to begin Aug. 13 and be completed by 2010.

In June, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee gave German authorities four months to come up with an alternative plan for the bridge, which UNESCO officials say would degrade the integrity of the Elbe River valley landscape, or risk seeing the city struck off a list of world heritage sites.

Saxony's state government angrily rejected the ultimatum, pointing to the results of a referendum in which Dresden citizens voted to support the bridge.

The Dresden city council, however, has sought to stop the construction plans -- taking its case unsuccessfully to Germany's highest court. Tourism is an important source of income for the city.

Dresden is often referred to as the Florence of the Elbe for the baroque architecture that gives it a distinctive skyline.
 

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Court gives go-ahead to disputed Dresden bridge, despite worries over bats
14 November 2007

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) - A German court on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for a new bridge near the city of Dresden that has been dogged by concerns over the habitat of a rare bat and the area's status as a UNESCO world heritage site.

An administrative court in nearby Bautzen overturned an injunction imposed by a lower court in August and ruled that construction of the 635-meter (2,083-foot) bridge across the Elbe river could proceed, despite the possible threat to the habitat of the lesser horseshoe bat.

However, the court also ruled that a strict speed limit of 30 kph (19 mph) must be put in place for the nighttime hours, in order to lessen possible harm to the bat.

The bridge has already been the subject of a long-running dispute with historical preservationists. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee has said it will so degrade the integrity of the Elbe valley landscape that the city risks being removed from its list of world heritage sites.

Dresden is often referred to as the Florence of the Elbe for the baroque architecture that gives it a distinctive skyline.

UNESCO in June gave German authorities four months to come up with an alternative plan for the bridge, but Saxony's state government angrily rejected the ultimatum, pointing to the results of a referendum in which Dresden citizens voted to support the bridge.

"The bridge could inflict irreversible damage on the Elbe Valley," UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said in Paris. The World Heritage Committee will vote on whether to remove the region from its list in July.

Construction of the four-lane Waldschloesschen bridge had been scheduled to begin Aug. 13, but that was blocked when environmental groups invoked the bat -- an endangered species -- to obtain an injunction against work starting.
 

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In Dresden, grappling with bridge and history
5 January 2008
International Herald Tribune

DRESDEN -- Victor Homola contributed reporting from Berlin.

The battle to stop a proposed bridge here has embroiled everything from a tiny endangered bat to the country's reigning literary lion, Günter Grass. Now activists with climbing gear and wooden planks have occupied a centuries-old beech tree to keep it from being felled as part of the construction of the controversial Waldschlšsschen Bridge.

The tarps over the makeshift encampments in the beech tree's limbs whipped and banged so fast in a harsh, gusting January wind it sounded like a drum roll. Below, wrapped around the trunk, was a giant white sign decorated with a yellow sun and colorful flowers both absent on a recent winter afternoon, which declared in German, ''I want to live.''

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known by its acronym Unesco, agrees. The agency has warned city and state officials that Dresden could become only the second site ever to lose its place on the World Heritage list if it builds the bridge, regularly described by opponents and even at times by supporters with the word ''monstrous.''

Unlike, for example, the historic center of Prague, it is the Dresden Elbe Valley, with its meadows and trees combined with its architecture that earned it a coveted spot on the list of 851 sites worldwide.

But backhoes and trucks are already at work, clearing ground from the meadows on both banks of the Elbe River and chainsawing down oak trees for construction of the access roads. While large construction projects are often the subject of legal battles and protests, the matter is particularly sensitive in Dresden.

Prior to World War II, Dresden was known as the ''Florence on the Elbe,'' for its exceptional baroque and rococo architecture. The city was devastated in a series of Allied bombing raids in 1945. That began a long struggle to rebuild. Its status as a World Heritage Site is a point of pride for citizens of Dresden.

Leading a protest against the bridge here last month, Grass, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for works including ''The Tin Drum,'' said that the history of the city's destruction meant ''one must be particularly angry and alert that this form of destruction is never repeated.''

Opponents have tried everything to stop the bridge from going up. For months construction was stalled after an administrative court ruled in August that steps needed to be taken to ensure that the endangered lesser horseshoe bat was protected.

Experts estimate that only about 650 remain in Germany, some in the vicinity of the proposed bridge. But the courts ultimately ruled in November that work could proceed.

Protestors held a sit-in around several old oak trees which had survived the infamous fire bombing during World War II to prevent workers from chopping them down. Their action failed, leading a few days later to the predawn seizure of the beech tree.

Environmentalists from a nonprofit called Robin Wood approached at 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 12 and set up camp in and around the beech tree, where they have remained.

The protesters say the tree was not harmed in the action. Wood platforms, about two and a half meters long and about a meter wide, were suspended from the stronger branches using a pulley and anchor system. A spokesman emphasized that no nails had been used to secure them.

It is not an easy time of year to sit in a tree in the bitterly cold state of Saxony. ''Sure is a lot of wind, loud rustling, but otherwise I slept well,'' said Alexander Gerschner, 42, who on Thursday morning had just come down from a six-hour shift in the tree.

The occupiers said they were being fed with donations by local supporters, receiving gifts of everything from Dresdner Stollen, the famous local Christmas fruitcake, to sushi.

Supporters of the bridge project say it will ease traffic congestion and better link the two sides of the city.

While the population of the state of Saxony, of which Dresden is the capital, has declined from 4.9 million at the time of German reunification to about 4.2 million currently, the rate of car ownership has risen more quickly than the population has fallen, from 423 per 1,000 residents in 1994 to 546 per 1,000 people last year.

Local officials sound exasperated when discussing the battle to build the bridge, which they say was first proposed for that very location back in 1896. Bridge proponents claim clear legitimacy, pointing out that the project won a citywide referendum three years ago with a convincing majority of 67 percent of voters.

''I'm for it,'' said Doreen Kaufhold, 20, a bookkeeper, waiting for a streetcar in central Dresden. ''It would be a relief for traffic.'' She said she did not believe the bridge would ultimately cost the city its status as a World Heritage site.

''The bridge was disclosed in the application,'' said Gerhard Glaser, now retired but president of the monuments preservation office of Saxony from 1982 until 2002.

Planners are hoping to sway Unesco with modifications that would make the bridge less obtrusive, allowing them to have their crossing and their heritage status, too.

''We hope that with these changes we can reach a point where Unesco finds it acceptable and we can maintain the World Heritage status,'' said Michael Sagurna, a senior official in the Saxony state government. ''Then we're fairly sure that with these changes the dispute won't be quite so heated as before.''
 

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Activists in Germany prevent cutting of beech tree for disputed Dresden bridge
10 January 2008

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) - Hundreds of protesters stopped authorities from cutting down a 200-year-old beech tree Thursday for a controversial new bridge spanning the Elbe River.

More than 350 protesters -- along with 12 activists who climbed the tree and refused to come down -- forced city officials to temporarily back off their plan to fell the 65-foot-tall tree.

It was the latest snag to plans for a new bridge that has drawn criticism from those who say it would mar the profile of the city -- a UNESCO World Heritage site -- and encroach on the habitat of a rare species of bat.

"Fortunately, the city officials left after they saw how many protesters had come to protect the tree," said Ute Bertrand, a spokeswoman for Robin Wood, an environmental group leading the protest.

She said activists have been lodged in the tree's branches -- nearly 50 feet above ground -- since Nov. 12.

The city of Dresden wants to cut the tree down so it can widen a road leading to the planned four-lane Waldschloesschen Bridge.

After a long legal battle, a German administrative court ruled in November that construction of the 2,083-foot-long bridge across the Elbe could proceed, despite the possible threat to the habitat of the lesser horseshoe bat.

The court also ruled that a strict speed limit of 19 mph must be in place during nighttime hours in a bid to reduce any disruptions to the habitat of the nocturnal bats.

The bridge has also been at the center of a long-running dispute with preservationists. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee has said if it is built, it would mar the landscape of the Elbe valley and could put the city at risk of being removed from the list of World Heritage sties.

Dresden is often referred to as the Florence of the Elbe because of the baroque architecture that gives the city its a distinctive skyline.
 

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UNESCO says the German city of Dresden stays on the World Heritage List - for now
3 July 2008

QUEBEC CITY (AP) - U.N. officials decided Thursday to retain Dresden's status as a World Heritage Site for now, in hopes that construction of a bridge they claim would mar the German city's skyline will be stopped.

In 2006, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee warned that it opposed the planned construction of the 2,085-foot-long bridge (635-meter-long) in the east German city.

The committee now says that if the work is not stopped and the damage reversed, the city will be deleted from the World Heritage List in 2009. It remains on a danger list.

The committee ruled last year to remove Dresden from the list if a bridge were built, but it decided to give Dresden more time in view of legal proceedings under way in Germany.

No site has ever been stripped from the World Heritage List, which identifies over 800 places around the world with "outstanding universal value."

The committee, part of the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, wants officials to change plans in place to build the bridge across the Elbe to ease traffic in Dresden, often referred to as the Florence of the Elbe for the baroque architecture that gives it a distinctive skyline.

The plans also have raised the ire of environmentalists, who say the bridge would encroach on the habitat of the rare lesser horseshoe bat.

A court ruled in November that construction could proceed despite the threat to the bat, but ordered a strict nighttime speed limit of 19 mph (30 kph) to limit disruptions to the bat's habitat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Dresden Elbe valley dropped from UN heritage list
25 June 2009

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) - The Elbe valley in the German city of Dresden lost its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site Thursday in a rare move that followed a years-long dispute over a new bridge.

The valley was removed from the list of sites deemed so precious as to belong to all humanity because the bridge's construction damaged the "outstanding universal value" of the landscape, the U.N. agency said in a statement.

Dresden, whose historic center has been painstakingly restored since it was ravaged by Allied bombs in 1945, is often referred to as the Florence of the Elbe because of the baroque architecture that gives it a distinctive skyline.

The city and an accompanying section of the Elbe valley were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Two years later, it was placed on a list of endangered sites because of plans for a four-lane road bridge, 600 yards (meters) long and made of steel and concrete, to be built within sight of Dresden's landmarks.

Regional officials rejected demands to come up with alternative plans, pointing to a 2005 referendum in which 68 percent of Dresden voters backed plans for the bridge, aimed at easing congestion.

"It is more than regrettable that those involved were unable to reach a compromise," German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said, adding that the federal government had pushed for an "amicable solution."

The U.N. cultural agency, whose World Heritage Committee made the decision in Seville, Spain, said Germany could nominate Dresden again for the prized status in future as parts of the valley might still be "considered to be of outstanding universal value."

Construction of the bridge started at the end of 2007 following a court battle that saw the plan temporarily blocked by separate concerns for the habitat of a rare bat. The bridge is scheduled to open to traffic in two years.

It was only the second time a site has been dropped from the UNESCO list. The first, in 2007, was a sanctuary in Oman for an endangered antelope, the Arabian Oryx, which that country's government reduced by 90 percent.

Guenter Gloser, a deputy German foreign minister, said that Dresden "is an isolated case." He noted that Germany has more than 30 other sites on the UNESCO list.

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Associated Press writer Daniel Woolls contributed to this report from Madrid.
 

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Could anyone please give me some information about this proposed bridge in Dresden? I'm worried about the city of Dresden losing its World Heritage Status just because a new bridge is to be constructed. I know the Elbe Valley already lost its status and any World Heritage Site
 

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City Faces Dresden's Fate At UNESCO
7 July 2009
The St. Petersburg Times

In a move that many believe could be repeated for St. Petersburg, the UN cultural body UNESCO has dropped the city of Dresden from its prestigious World Heritage List as a result of the construction of a controversial four-lane bridge over the Elbe River.

UNESCO has previously warned that the siting of a new skyscraper headquarters for the energy giant Gazprom in St. Petersburg could have a similar result.

According to the UNESCO website, for the second time in the history of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted by UNESCO in 1972, a site was removed from the World Heritage List when the Committee decided that Germany's Dresden Elbe Valley could no longer retain its status as a World Heritage site of outstanding universal value.

St. Petersburg lawmaker Alexei Kovalyov is convinced St. Petersburg may soon find itself in the same boat due to the planned construction of a new Gazprom Neft headquarters known as the Okhta Center. "Like Dresden, St. Petersburg refuses to compromise," he said. "And, as in Dresden, a large-scale, modern construction project threatens to distort the cultural landscape. The analogy is obvious, and if the Russian officials continue to ignore it, the outcome will be identical."

UNESCO sounded its first warning to St. Petersburg back in 2007, when Marcio Barbosa, UNESCO's deputy head, said that Russia has been asked to halt all development work on the Okhta Center project until the organization has investigated its possible risks to St. Petersburg's architectural legacy. The tower, he added, could cause St. Petersburg to lose its prized place on the list of UNESCO's World Heritage sites. St. Petersburg is one of only three Russian cities on the list.

"To use soccer terminology, we have issued a yellow card to the city," Barbosa said. "If the situation does not improve, the next logical step is a red card. This means we will have to move St. Petersburg onto the list of endangered sites."

The new Gazprom building has been designed as a twisting 396-meter tower, no less than eight times higher than the current official limit for new buildings in the city's historic center. It will stand close to where the Okhta River flows into the Neva on the opposite bank from the famous white-and-blue Smolny Cathedral.

The tower is to be the new headquarters for Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of the national energy monopoly, in St. Petersburg. It is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2012.

The U.K.-based World Monuments Fund, a leading heritage protection body, has already placed St. Petersburg on its list of the world's 100 most endangered historic sites, alongside war-torn Iraq, sinking Venice, and hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.

In Dresden the decision on the bridge's construction was taken following public debates and a referendum on the issue.

In St. Petersburg, protests have been numerous but fruitless. When the local branch of the liberal party Yabloko called for a citywide referendum on the project, the move was blocked on a technicality in the city's Legislative Assembly.

Meanwhile, in the midst of advertizing campaign for the Okhta Center tower project, the defenders of the historical St. Petersburg launched an exhibition called "Outlaw Skyscraper" on Monday.

Organized by the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments (VOOPIiK) and ECOM, a think tank run by the St. Petersburg Society of Naturalists, the exhibition demonstrates how the planned 396-meter Gazprom tower, if built, will ruin the city's protected sights and skyline.

But the organizers' main argument is that the project violates the Russian law that forbids buildings higher than 100 meters in such areas as the site reserved for the tower.

"Our main position is that there are no legal grounds for the [structure], that is they neither have a right to exceed the height limits, nor for evading the borders of the protected zone, where the strict ban for such intrusions is imposed," Alexander Kononov, the chairman of the VOOPIiK's St. Peterburg branch, said on Monday.

According to Kononov, the whole construction site is within the protected zone, where strict limits are applied.

"There also can't appear any new dominants and, moreover, a high-rise object that breaks in law-protected panoramas," he said.

"The view on Smolny Cathedral, on Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral, the Palace Square, the Summer Gardens and the Field of Mars, the embankments - wherever they will meddle, it is not legally possible," he said. "With the law passed in spring that recently came in force, this discussion is closed."

The exhibition opened in the run-up to a public discussion of the Okhta Center project featuring pressure groups and movements as well as the representatives of ODTs Okhta, the company behind the construction, set for Friday.

According to the Town-Planning Code, which is a federal law, the owner or user only can ask for a permission to exceed from the limits if the site has drawbacks that do not allow the structure to be built as permitted, Kononov said.

"I'd love to listen what arguments can be - the site is 'so bad' that they cannot build a 100-meter structure, but only can build a 400-meter one?" he said.

The Outlaw Skyscraper exhibition at the Union of Architects, 52 Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, and at the European University, 3 Gagarinskaya Ulitsa, from July 10 through July 30.
 
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