Slovakia and Hungary renew talks over the Gabcikovo Dam

13-02-2004

The giant Gabcikovo dam on the Danube River has been a source of dispute between Hungary and Slovakia for over a decade. The Project was begun by Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia in 1977. The goal was to dam the Danube, all the way from Bratislava to Budapest and so generate lots of clean hydroelectric energy. The Dam was eventually finished by Slovakia after Hungary pulled out of the project in 1989. Hungary now says the re-channeling of the Danube for the dam has caused the Northern Hungarian region of Szigetkoz to dry up. Radio Budapest's Gyorgyi Jakobi spoke to Gyorgy Droppa an environmental expert and organiser of a European Danube conference...

"We have to get to some solution through a compromise. This is the main issue and this we have to do in a European way. I'm speaking about the water framework directive, which is a very modern law, which is also making directives saying, not beyond this point, saying that's not allowed, that practice is not allowed, but this law is trying to think also about the future."

You organized a major Danube conference, which will take place on the 26th of April. You want to ask the European Union for mediation, but the main issue remains, will Hungary ever agree to the construction of a dam on the Danube?

"Well look in the Szigetkoz section. Something must be done because the level of the water table is very low and it was low even before the river was diverted. This means you have to lift up the water table so that the roots of the trees etc will reach the water level. You can only do that with some technical improvement. Some under water weirs must be made. According to our plan these weirs will be made equally from the Hungarian and the Slovak side using up the old riverbeds. This means that this is the cheapest way and at the same time this is the most environmentally friendly way because we are not thinking in terms of making new river beds but we are using the old river beds and by washing them out I think the environment will have a new solution for its future."

This Gabcikovo syndrome was, from the very beginning, a political issue. As soon as the word "dam" or "water barrage" will turn up at the talks this will be a new ground for division between the opposition and government...

"Yes but you have to know that when we speak about a dam, dam is made out of concrete, in a dam you have iron elements and a dam serves to open the gates and close the gates, and this is a constantly underwater weir and the only purpose of this weir is to counter balance all the damage which has been done by building the water course too straight. The watercourse will be lifted somehow but this is not an artificial dam, this is an underwater weir, which is used throughout the world. I mean, this is the only way to counter balance it. And I think we have to get rid of politics. Only the environmentalists and the ones who have something to say in a technical way in order to explain what could be a solution for the river, I think these people should have a word from now on."

13-02-2004