The reconstruction of six selected wells on the Vrdovo plateau has been completed, one of the project activities of the Dinara back to LIFE project, which aims to reverse the natural trend of succession and extinction in the direction of biodiversity and self-sustainability. These wells are 100-200 years old, but half a century ago, due to mass emigration in several waves, they were used scarcely or not at all, so they became dangerous and a mockery. With their restoration, this masterpiece of construction by hardworking people from Podinarje will again be a source of life for animals and people.
Out of hundreds of wells in the project area, 20 were shortlisted for reconstruction, selected with the help of Damir Jukić Bračulj, an employee of Hrvatske šume whose family lives in this area and knows the locations of the wells. Out of the 20 shortlisted the final six were selected, located on the state land, distributed over a large area of Vrdovo and at its foot, and which fit into the financial construction of the project. Reconstruction work, ie restoring the well to its original condition with minor modifications, began in late April in difficult weather conditions because temperatures at 900 meters above sea level at Vrdovo dropped to zero, and rain in the area prevented earthworks.
By the end of the work, which lasted until the end of June, this area became extremely hot due to the karst and lack of shade. 2 to 6 workers were hired for the jobs at the time, depending on the needs of the job, and machinery was used for the most physically difficult jobs. The last restored well Venišica was also the most special – it is the largest, the only one not on Vrdovo, but at its foot, above Rumin. The works on Venišica were the most complex and it is the only well that has a vein from which water constantly springs, ie it is a “living” well that fills up very quickly. A ramp was made for easier access to this well.
However, there were big jobs with other wells as well – Lovrić’s well was buried with dirt and stones up to 1.5 meters, and it was deepened to a depth of seven meters. Bulović’s well was completely collapsed and buried, and it was also deepened and reconstructed with elements weighing several hundred kilograms, in the lowering of which the machinery helped, during which we could remember the skilled and ingenious builders from a century or two ago who built these wells first, without having today’s machines. The monetary value of the renovation of these wells – because their benefit for life as such is immeasurable – is 167.000 kuna, made by the skilled hands of Antonio Jurić and his masters.
After a short rainy period, the wells were full, but as the drought approaches, the wells will be emptied – except probably Venišica which has a constant inflow of water – by the first rains after Assumption, but the process was reversed, water was “caught” and life on this dry area got its basic element. “Karst water means everything” – says Zoran Šunjić from Hrvatske vode, the client and partner in the project. In this karst area, explains the forestry expert at Dinara back to LIFE, water falls through the soil into deeper layers, which is why wells were built that were neglected over time and now need to be restored because their restoration means a return to life. The specificity of this karst terrain is that at certain depths of the soil – 5 to 10 meters – there is loam, clay soil, “gnjila” as people call it in this area. The rain that falls through the karst in the upper soil layers slides horizontally on this loam, until it reaches the well into which it flows and remains in them.
The first ones we remember when we think about the purpose of rebuilding wells are cattle breeders, or their “treasure” of which there are hundreds in this area. However, wells are at least equally important for bees that would collapse on the Vrdova karst from drought and heat, and they are the key – as we have heard many times in recent years – for pollen distribution, ie for pollination, ie for biodiversity. With this renovation, Vrdovo has become a small paradise for them!
The days of extensive livestock production are over and we will not see the return of that number of cattle from about 100 years ago, but new needs are emerging. Hiking and adventure tourism are becoming increasingly popular and renovated wells can be a (reserve) source of water, as well as a tourist attraction, and can also serve hunters for their needs. Water can also be a gathering place – in Kaoci, on the northern slopes of the Biokovo Nature Park, where three wells have also been renovated and three improvised summer houses have been set up, actor Vedran Mlikota holds performances every summer. It is no wonder that Hrvatske šume (Croatian Forests company), after the restoration on Vrdovo, receives daily inquiries about the renovation of other wells, of which there are hundreds in the project area, and thousands throughout Dalmatia. The possibility of life, therefore, is here, it just needs a helping hand to return!