Great War Island

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Coordinates: 44°50′N 20°26′E / 44.833°N 20.433°E / 44.833; 20.433

Satellite view of Great War Island

Great War Island (Serbian: Велико ратно острво, Veliko ratno ostrvo) is a river island in Belgrade, capital of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of Sava and Danube rivers. Though uninhabited, the island is part of the Belgrade City proper, and belongs to the city municipality of Zemun.

Location[edit]

Great War Island is located at the mouth of the Sava river into the Danube, in the Danube's widening between the Kalemegdan fortress as the ending section of the Terazije ridge of northernmost part of Šumadija on the west and the low, easternmost section of the Syrmia plain, the modern Ušće neighborhood of Novi Beograd, on the south.

The island is relatively close to the banks, at the closest it is just 200 meters away from both Novi Beograd and Kalemegdan. On the south, halfway between the Great War Island and Ušće is the remnant of Little War Island.

Panorama of the island, taken from Kalemegdan fortress.

Geography and wildlife[edit]

The Great War Island is generally triangular in shape and covers an area of 2.11 km². It is low, for the most part marshy and often flooded by the Danube. The main physical feature on the island is the canal of Veliki Galijaš. In time, the canal was cut off from the Danube and effectively turned into a lake, with an area of 0.24 km² and the major natural bird and fish spawning area on the island. However, during the droughty years the lake drains out completely causing damage to the closed eco-system centered around it. Currently some two-thirds of the island are used as a nature preserve for 196 [1] bird species, many of which are endangered. One of Belgrade's beaches, Lido, is located on the northern tip of the island.

Because of the sedimentation, occasional drainage and removal of the silt from the northern tip of the island is necessary, as otherwise it would make a land connection to the bank of the Danube. [2]

Plant life on the island includes the typical marshy flora, like reed, yellow flag or rush, but also trees like black poplar, ash tree, elderberry, hawthorn and even some rare conifers. [1]

History[edit]

The island gained its militant name because throughout the history Great War Island was an important strategic point either for the conquest or the defence of Belgrade. For example, in 1521 when Belgrade was under siege by Turkish forces, the majority of their attacks on Belgrade fortress were launched from the island. In liberating Belgrade in 1806 the rebel army headed by Karađorđe also used the island for military purposes, as the Serbian artillery with 500 soldiers was bombing the Kalemegdan fortress from there. During the offensive in 1915 by Austria-Hungary against Belgrade, Austria-Hungary forces used the island to launch their attacks.

When construction of Novi Beograd began in 1948, the city government made a decision to completely destroy the island by using its sand and earth to cover the marshes of Syrmia, where new city was to be built. However, the deposits of alluvial materials continually brought onto the island from the Danube completely prevented this from happening. Instead, the smaller Little War Island served this purpose and was nearly destroyed in the process.

Though officially uninhabited, almost a dozen of people live in small shacks in the island's interior. [3] They are mostly retirees who move to the island during the warm season and maintain their vegetable gardens, while in the winter they return to Belgrade.

Recent developments[edit]

In the early 2000s, speculations concerning the islands future emerged among the public, including the ideas of turning it into a grand amusement park, possible relocation spot for the Belgrade Zoo or that sections of the island should be leased to the cultural representatives of the different countries which would turn each section into ethno-park of their native culture, in which case the island would be renamed to Dunavsko ostrvo (Danube Island), [1] but all this was dropped in 2005 when it was finally decided that the island should remain intact.

In 2002, the island was declared a natural fish spawning area and declared practically the only part of the City of Belgrade where building of facilities like hotels, motels or restaurants is not allowed. The major works on the island began in 2007. In February 2007, following the disastrous 2006 European floods which wiped out Lido from the northern tip of the island, the Great War Island was completely cleaned with all the bulky junk being removed, so as the remains of the old constructions and the 24 hour guarding service was set. Celebrating the June 29, the international Danube Day, an ecology camp made of pile dwellings for students of the Belgrade University was opened.

In August 2007, digging of a 300 meter-long canal which reconnected Veliki Galijaš with the Danube also began to prevent the seasonal drying of the lake. A 15 meter-high lookout is to be erected west of Veliki Galijaš so as the entire network of visitor centers on the unsinkable points around the lake and throughout the island for the studying of the bird life. A bio-laboratory and the small boat landing are also scheduled for construction.

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Besplatni izleti na Veliko ratno ostrvo". Politika (in Serbian). 2008-07-04. p. 23. 
  2. ^ "Logor, bašta, rezervat prirode". Politika (in Serbian). 2008-06-30. pp. p. 19. 
  3. ^ "Robinzoni usred grada". Politika (in Serbian). 2008-06-30. pp. p. 19. 

See also[edit]