Dresden opens bridge that killed heritage status

AFP-JIJI

A bridge that torpedoed Dresden’s World Heritage status because UNESCO deemed it a blot on the city’s baroque landscape was to open to traffic Monday.

The Waldschloesschenbruecke, which at 635 meters is the longest span over the Elbe River, was built to alleviate traffic in the eastern German city’s historic center.

But added to its €180 million ($240 million) price tag was the blow to the city’s prestige when UNESCO decided to drop the Dresden Elbe Valley from the World Heritage list in 2009 when the project to build the four-lane bridge got the green light. The “cultural landscape” that was designated a World Heritage site just five years earlier extends for 20 km on either side of Dresden.

UNESCO argued that the new bridge will blight the view of Dresden’s old town, home to tourist magnets such as the Semper Opera House and the Dresdner Frauenkirche, an 18th-century Lutheran church. Both were destroyed in World War II and later rebuilt.

Thomas Loeser of the Green Party lamented the “bitter loss of a one-of-a-kind landscape and the de-recognition of the UNESCO World Heritage title.”

For his part, Holger Zastrow, head of the Saxony region’s Free Democrats, urged the World Heritage Committee to come and see for itself “that the Elbe Valley is not disturbed and more than ever not destroyed.”

The project also raised concerns over its environmental impact, notably on an endangered species of bat that lives in the area, leading to a vote on the issue by Dresden residents as well as court action. The bat’s supporters won a small victory — a 2007 court decision stipulating a 30-kph speed limit on the bridge at certain times.

The capital of Saxony state sustained a massive bombing raid by Allied forces beginning on Feb. 13, 1945, sparking a firestorm that destroyed much of the historical center of the city, most of which has been restored.

The Dresden Elbe Valley was only the second World Heritage site to be struck from the prestigious list, after Oman’s Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was dropped in 2007 after a sharp decline in the oryx population as a result of poaching and loss of habitat.

New Japan candidates

Kyodo

A government panel has selected churches and other properties related to Christianity in Nagasaki and Kumamoto prefectures for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2015.

The selection by the Council for Cultural Affairs could compete with the possible recommendation by another government panel of industrial sites in eight prefectures and lead the government to decide on a single candidate in September. Countries can only recommend one candidate each year to UNESCO.

The 13 properties in Kyushu, including the Oura Tenshudo Church in Nagasaki, played a key role in the spread of Christianity in Japan. The church has been designated as a national treasure.

  • gnirol

    I challenge Herr Loeser to avoid using that bridge the rest of his life, assuming he represents the Dresden area at some level of government and lives there. Prove to all those people presumably happily crossing the bridge in the photo that you are right, UNESCO is right, that the bridge was a worthless boondoggle. Better yet, ban automobiles in the Dresden area. Were cars part of the “baroque landscape”? If not, why are they allowed to defile it? “Stilbruch” if I ever saw one. If you tell me that species are going to go extinct, pollution is going to skyrocket because of the bridge, that’s one thing. If you tell me the view won’t be quite so charming, though the traffic jams will be much less annoying (perhaps reducing exhaust emissions from cars currently standing around, going nowhere and spewing chemicals into the air?), then avert thine eyes, Herr Loeser, und gucken Sie einfach nie dorthin.

  • Christoph Schmidt

    You forgot to mention that the 100-year-old plans to build the bridge where part of the World-Heritage-application sent to the UNESCO. What do you expect from a city which first gets the green light, and later is told by that very same third party, that it is to cease and desist an expensive and valuable infrastructure project already in the works. That’s just bollocks. The city relieves the historical city center of a lot of traffic and has turned out to be very slim. Come see for yourself. We have cookies, too.