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How Much Nature can you Sacrifice for Profit?

When the first road construction-related disruptions occurred at the roundabout right before entering Bled in 2022, I didn't give it much thought. However, I informed myself about the construction project and it was said that the EU would provide more thanl 20 million euros for the construction of a cycle path for green tourism and that would not be missed. When I tried to film Huchen spawning in the Sava Radovljica in April of this year, I quickly had to forget about this idea. Although I finally found a single huchen pair near a spawning redd on the upper Sava Bohinjka (Institute water, see picture), the spawning of these majestic salmonids was already over in this area. The planned filming on the Sava Radovljica, where spawning was actually supposed to begin, was made impossible several times due to cloudy water. When I drove upstream along the Sava Bohinjka to find out the origin of the cloudiness, I noticed the vast impact the new cycle path has on nature and the huge amount of material that has been moved there. It wasn't the huge landslide that caused the cloudy water, but rather the construction work on the oversized cycle path.


Massive Disruption caused by Cycle Path

Huge amounts of shade providing trees were cut down and large areas of the left bank were turned into gravel highways, most of which run directly along the water's edge. Widening the road to give cyclists the necessary safety from traffic is one thing, moving the cycle path to the other bank so that there are now impairments on both sides (also for wild animals living in the surrounding forest.) is another. Former top spots near the rocks in the river below the tube weir near the bridge were virtually flattened. At one of the favourite spots of a fellow fishing buddy, not a single bush was left standing. Now a gravel highway runs right along the bank waiting to be paved (and heated up in summer). When my friend these photos, he could barely close his mouth. What a disaster! The Sava Bohinjka has a relatively low water level for a large part of the year. Nevertheless, it is home to a good population of huchen, which is given a lot of care. Since the protective riverside vegetation and the associated food input are now missing due to the cycle path that runs directly along the bank and a permanent disturbance by cycle tourists it can be assumed that the huchen will soon leave these areas. Of course, this is also a catastrophe for fishermen and especially for fly fishers, as the calm on the water will then be over and you also have to check before every cast to make sure that you don't hook a cyclist during your back cast.

Even More Tourists Expected

With this project, that has already destroyed a lot of valuable habitat (see video on the right), more day tourists from Bled should be lured to Lake Bohinj in order to create space for even more tourists and increase the business there. It is foreseeable that this will have a serious impact on the fishing at Bohinjka. Lots of tourists on the water, farewell to tranquillity, rubbish disposed of directly into the river for convenience. How much of this widespread destruction can nature absorb? Mass tourism at any price immediately comes to mind. I wonder when those responsible for tourism will actually realise that the number of tourists on Lake Bled and the surrounding area is already far too high, and that this will not only be problematic for the environment, but also for the tourists themselves. There are already traffic jams at the entrance to Bled and also at the exit all year round, There are true migrations of people around the lake. Lake Bled, which was once known for sight fishing for large carp with flies, is practically no longer suitable for this purpose. Sight fishing requires good light conditions. This is still missing early in the morning and from 7 a.m. onwards, when visibility improves, hordes of joggers and bikers show up and there are permanent disturbances along the bank. From the beginning of June onwards, dozens of stand up paddlers travel along the bank during the day instead of paddling far out in the lake and thereby chase the fish into the depths.

Wastewater Illegally Dumped Into Sava Bohinjka

The idyll at the lake is long gone because of the huge amounts tourists travelling to the destination. What happens to the huge amount of wastewater that the visitors produce?

In summer 2022, during a long and hot phase of good weather, the sewage treatment plant was massively overloaded, and the sparsely flowing water of the Sava was unable to dilute the wastewater adequately. The people responsible for the sewage treatment plant tried to get rid of the problem in one fell swoop and illegally disposed the heavily contaminated water overnight into the Sava via the outlet at Mlino. This resulted in tens of children being treated in hospital because they stayed in a youth camp further downstream and went for a swim in the polluted river. Bled has an increasingly serious wastewater problem!

The expensive cycle path is being built with massive disruption to nature in order to attract even more tourists. Instead, the number of tourists need to be reduced or at least the tourist money should be invested in a far-sighted manner and in the interests of nature conservation and water quality in a generously dimensioned sewage treatment plant feeding the wastewater via a long pipe into the Sava Dolinka, which always has a sufficient flow of water to dilute the water of the sewage treatment plant. Many hot summers with low water periods will follow in the years to come and the fish in the Sava will suffer and cannot cope with additional insufficiently treated wastewater. Hotels and other accomodations should pay per tourist into a fund to solve the problem as they all profit from tourists that come to enjoy a healthy nature.

Tourism can also be exaggerated and those in charge of Bled have turned out to be true masters at this ...

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Copyright © Günter Feuerstein