Novozámecký rybník (rybník = fishponds) National Nature Reserve, in the northern part of the Czech Republic, was designated for the Ramsar List in 1990, together with the nearby Brehynsky rybnik. The whole Ramsar site covers 923 ha and is of special importance for flora, invertebrates, and breeding/staging water birds, qualifying under Ramsar criteria 2a, 2b and 2c.
In March 1997, the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic requested emergency assistance from the Small Grants Fund to renovate the control structure for regulating the water level within the site. The existing outlet had been in poor repair at the time of Ramsar designation, and was also beyond the jurisdiction of conservation authorities, being outside the protected area boundary. Because of the dangerous condition of the outlet structure, the water level had to be lowered, leading to drying out of the site and an urgent threat to its ecological character by late 1996. (The site had already been included in the Montreux Record since September 1994.) The restoration proposal carried particularly strict requirements because the outlet structure for the 14th century fishpond is listed as an historical monument.
Photo: The Novozámecký rybník water outlet undergoing restoration, November 1997.
On 30 April 1997, an emergency allocation of SFR 43,000 was made through the SGF mechanism, drawing upon money remaining in a Ramsar project funded by the United States Department of State for assisting conservation work in countries with economies in transition. This was complemented by funds from the Environment Ministry's "River Systems Revitalization Programme". The total cost of the project reached SFR 124,000, but the Conventions contribution was vital in securing the counterpart funding. The project was managed by the Czech Agency for Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection.
Following the completion of internal administrative and financial procedures (including a process of tendering), restoration work was begun in August 1997. The decaying outlet structure was removed, and the foundations for a replica of the outlet were laid. Manufacturing of the wooden parts of the new structure was extremely demanding in terms of both materials and technical design, as special restoration techniques were required.
The final work was completed at the beginning of 1998, and trial raising of the water level in the Ramsar site began on 9 March. An official opening of the new outlet structure was held on 31 March 1998.
According to the final report on the successful conclusion of the emergency project, it is thought that no irreversible ecological damage has been sustained, even though the site had to remain without water for two winters. In particular, the very mild 1997-98 winter helped to minimize frost damage to the pond bottom and surrounding soil. It is now planned to develop a detailed management plan for the site, with the eventual aim of removing Novozámecký fishponds from the Montreux Record.
Further information can be obtained from Dr Petr Roth, Director, Department of Nature Protection, Ministry of the Environment, Vrsovická 65, 100 10 Praha 10, Czech Republic (tel +420 2 6712 2041, fax +420 2 6731 1096).
Photo: The official opening of the new water outlet, 31 March 1998.