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History of Danube-Oder-Elbe waterway - The project in the time when “tomorrow meant yesterday already” PDF Print E-mail
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The project in the time when “tomorrow meant yesterday already”  

It looked like the end of the war finally brought a favorable atmosphere for the continuous realization of the D-O-E interconnection. Within the new borderlines, the friendly Poland replaced Germany in the north part of the route. It was expected to be only a matter of the nearest years if not months when the works would restart again. Also, the above-mentioned Association of the Danube–Oder Canal played an important role in the post-war years. In April 1946, they drew the Memorandum of the Danube–Oder Canal and presented it to the government, parliament, economic entities, and other authorities or interested people. One month later, they suggested international funding of the project. 

Výstavba zdymadla Velký Osek byla zahájena v roce 1940 a ukončena v roce 1952.

Construction of the Elbe lock and dam Velký Osek started in 1940; as the work proceeded quite slowly during the war, it had not been finished until 1952.

In 1948, in order to bring the project into line with the new politically economic situation, they proposed establishment of the national enterprise The D-O-E Canal. Upon this proposal, the economic council applied a questionnaire to find out if the possibility of the canal construction still remained. The published results revealed that from the point of economy, rentability, technical feasibility and financing, the project had lost none of its topicality, and that its national economic impact is undeniable. After the communist coup, though, all these activities were doomed. The politically economic orientation of the country had changed completely as well as the priorities. The tight dependence on the Soviet Union and an emphasis on heavy industries made the project of the D-O-E waterway quite redundant, if not detrimental. Thus the state appointed entities, which were to safeguard its realization, were systematically disassembled, while the private efforts and activities were being suppressed.  

As of the decree n. 4/66 from January 29, 1949, the Minister of Engineering dismissed the Directorship for Construction of Waterways in Prague without any adequate substitution. Although the Canal Department joined the Water Management Office of the Ministry of Engineering and later, in 1952, to the newly established Water Management Development Centre in Prague, by ruling of the government decree n. 206 from August 26, 1952, all preparation works on the canal were terminated anyway. Formally it was only “a temporary solution”, but in fact it was for good, as until now, they have never been revived in their original range. Activities of the Association of the Danube–Oder Canal were being administratively restrained. Eventually, as of December 31, 1959, the association was “consentingly” dismissed – the Ministry of Finance did not allow the people’s committees to pay membership dues, plus the voluntary organizations and assemblies as corporate bodies were being liquidated. It is highly advisable to keep remembering these events, as the current opponents of the project do not hesitate to call it “communist” to score some extra political points. They either gamble on the events of half a century ago being largely forgotten, or neither they are aware of the real circumstances.

The State Water Management Plan from 1953 became the only document, which actually acknowledged the idea of the D-O-E canal in the 1950s and 1960s. Although it specified principles of the complex utilization of water resources, it remained a mere outline plan with no concrete terms or deadlines. Only the atmosphere of the Prague Spring melted a little the ice clutching any serious efforts to revive at least the research work. Upon the government decree n. 222/1966, as well as the order of Directorship of Water Resources, Hydroprojekt Praha presented a study “The Danube–Oder–Elbe Canal Interconnection – the General Solution 1968” [Průplavní spojení Dunaj–Odra–Labe – generální řešení 1968]. 

Ukázka pečlivě zpracované dokumentace v rámci „generálního řešení“ z roku 1968.

An example of a thorough documentation for the “General solution“ from 1968.

The destiny of General Solution in the years to come was marked by the period of “real socialism”. In the same atmosphere the government passed the decree n. 169/1971, which assigned the competent authorities to protect the territory of the future canal as defined in the General Solution, so that uncoordinated investment ventures in the area would not prevent or excessively raised the costs of its realization.  

Přeprava energetického uhlí po Labi probíhala od 70. do druhé poloviny 90. let. 

Transport of coal along the Elbe demonstrated the capacity of modern navigation; it suggested the quality and efficiency of the transport as well as the environmental benefits which the water corridor D-O-L would guarantee.

The dynamic development of the Danube navigation in 1950s–1980s indicated the great potential of the waterway. Its exploitation implied sooner or later realization of the connecting waterways. Since 1975, the opportunities of inland navigation proved even more clearly on the Elbe, as it joined the combined transport of energetic coal by railway and water from North Bohemian coalfields to the power plant in Chvaletice. Considering the short distance, the water transport was less convenient pricewise than the railway solution, therefore the reason was the insufficiently conducting railway capacity on the lines along the Elbe. After the sharp decrease in demands for the railway service in 1990s, the water transport came to a halt again. It implied a notion that it was economically inefficient, while it was actually the railway, not the navigation, which was the pricy partner of the collaboration. 

Přístav Chvaletice byl otevřen plavbě v roce 1975

Chvaletice port delivering coal to the power plant. High capacity bucket wheel devices (front) and a large repair shipyard (centre).

The Chvaletice project also called for some modernization touch-ups on the Elbe waterway – namely for replacement of the old dams with with frames and needles (or shutters) with new modern constructions and for modernization of the secondary locks of the waterway. Hydrostatic weirs were used in four dams: at Dolní Beřkovice (1974), Roudnice nad Labem (1972), České Kopisty (1971), and Lovosice (1972). In 1970, a new movable weir with radial gates was built in Štětí nad Labem, closely followed by modernization of secondary locks in Dolní Beřkovice (1974), Štětí nad Labem (1973), Roudnice nad Labem (1975), České Kopisty (1971) and Lovosice (1977). The effective length was extended to 85 ms and new upper falling gates installed allowing a combined filling of the lock. In 1973, the original Middle Elbe dams in Hadík and Obříství (1919–1912) were replaced with a single modern sector gate dam. Construction of the locks of Veletov and Týnec nad Labem was especially important, as it pushed the ending point of the river navigability from Kolín to Chvaletice, i.e. closer to the spot where the Elbe should connect to the D-O-E water corridor. Despite only a single missing lock and dam – in Přelouč – to reach Pardubice, the "spell" was not to be broken yet.  

Zdymadlo v Parubicích bylo dokončeno v roce 1974 

The lock and dam on the Elbe in Pardubice has a symbolic meaning. Finished in 1969, its river pool should join the actual D-O-E corridor of the future.