A NEW forest is growing in the part of the Tatras that was devastated by a windstorm a year and half ago. It is the result of the Water Forest project, which has built over 4,000 water storage systems and planted 17,254 new trees on more than 50 hectares of the destroyed mountains.
The aim of a water storage system - a complex of terraces and flood controls - is to retain surface water long enough to let it soak into the soil before trickling away. That should help to revitalise the devastated area to its original state.
"The system performed as hoped during the first rainfall. The rainwater did not run down the hills but stayed in the holes created by the uprooted trees and in the storage systems, gradually soaking into the soil," Michal Kravčík, head of the People and Water NGO that runs the project, reported at a press conference on May 10.
The windstorm destroyed 12,600 hectares in total, 8,000 of which lie in the very central part of the Tatras National Park (TANAP). People and Water worked quickly with TANAP workers to assess what impact the wind-destroyed forest could have on water circulation.
"[The disaster] meant accelerated water flows, erosions and hard drying. That's why we decided to set up the Water Forest project," said Peter Líška from TANAP.
Volunteers and scouts from 824 municipalities in 26 countries helped to build the storage systems and plant the new trees, which the TANAP's State Forest company provided for free. Slovenská sporiteľňa bank supported the project with Sk10 million (€260,000). Slovak documentary filmmaker Pavol Barabáš captured the work in the film Premeny Tatier (The Tatras' Metamorphoses).
Kravčík explained that the Water Forest substitutes for the missing part of the forest and helps the young trees to grow. Calculations estimate the project can capture as much as 45,750 cubic metres of water at one time, about the same volume a fully-developed forest can catch.
"The Water Forest could also be an inspiration for solving the flood situation," Kravčík said. His organisation and TANAP plan to study water storage technologies and their impact on preventing floods.
22. May 2006 at 0:00