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Slovakia
Usage of bio fuels in Slovakia is low

BIOMASS currently provides for only three to four percent of the country's energy consumption, the State Secretary of the Environment Ministry, Jaroslav Jaduš, told journalists at the International Slovak Biomass Forum (ISBF) in Bratislava on February 19.
Yet according to the Bratislava Energy Centre (ECB) it could be as high as 15 percent.
As the use of biomass is currently a hot topic due to the country's ongoing need for alternative fuel sources, the Economy, Agriculture, and Environment ministries decided to form a focus group whose goal is to encourage and increase the use of biomass in Slovakia. The group will work towards this goal in the technical, legislative and economic fields.
In Jaduš's opinion, Slovakia is at the bottom of the list among EU countries as far as the use of renewable energy supplies is concerned. However, the situation might soon be changed through the Act on Renewable Energy Sources, which is currently being drafted, and also thanks to plans for 30 biomass burning plants that should be built in Slovakia by the year 2013.
Energy policy is also a priority for Slovak MEP Peter Baco. He admitted, however, that the EU itself has not succeeded in fulfilling all its obligations in the area.
"The main reason why the EU is behind schedule in this field is that alternative fuels are still more expensive than fossil fuels," explained Baco, adding that although trends are constantly changing, a massive increase in the use of renewable energy sources is expected by 2030.


Slovakia
Kaliňák wants to raise speed limit on motorways

DRIVERS will be pleased with Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák's plan to raise the speed limit on freeways to 160km/hour. Indeed, many drivers are already breaking the current 130km/hour speed limit on a regular basis, wrote the Plus Jedeň Deň daily on February 28.
Kaliňák's proposal was prompted by the Czech Republic's announcement that they might be increasing the speed limit. "There is also room for such considerations in Slovakia. There are sections of freeway where this increase would certainly be acceptable. It's also important that we increase the minimum speed limit on freeways to help make traffic more fluid," said Kaliňák.
Experts warn that the increase would only by appropriate for a few stretches of freeway totalling about 500 kilometres.
"All motorways that we currently have were designed with a maximum speed of 130 kilometres per hour in mind," stressed the spokesperson of the National Freeways Company, Marcel Jánošík, for the Plus Jedeň Deň daily on March 1. "We don't have standards set for a higher speed. Even those freeways that are now under construction, as well as those that are still being planned, are designed with a maximum speed of 130 kilometres per hour in mind," said Jánošík.


Bratislava
Critical situation in animal home

The animals at the Polianky pound in Bratislava desperately need more space.
photo: SITA

THE SITUATION is still critical at the Polianky pound for abandoned animals in Bratislava. Workers are currently caring for about 130 dogs and cats. The head of the animal home, Edita Gardoňová, told SITA news wire on February 26 that in particular they are having problems with large dog breeds.
"We now have a lot of large dogs, especially mongrels that are part wolf-dog or pit-bull. Each one takes up a whole pen because they have to be alone. In the case of smaller breeds, we sometimes put up to three dogs in one pen," she said.
The animal home also reported having taken in an increasing number of injured animals recently. Gardoňová ascribed the increase in injuries to the animals' wandering and searching for partners.
However, she added, "In some cases, the animal had a broken leg but otherwise was well kept and fed. But for some reason the owners of these dogs have not yet reported them as lost." She recommended that pet owners should tag their pets in order to make it easier for them to be identified.
The animal home will move into new premises next to its current location this spring. A quarantine area for new animals should be opened first. Whether or not the other sections will be opened will depend on available funds. The animal home needs about Sk5 million. The construction of the new animal home has cost around Sk9 million so far and should be able to house 150 animals. The current animal home was designed for only 60.


Nováky
Former mine used as oyster mushroom farm

MINERS produced over 20 tons of oyster mushrooms last year in unused corridors of the Baňa Nováky coal mine. This is probably the only mine in Europe where oyster mushrooms, which are known to reduce cholesterol and improve the immune system, are being grown on an industrial scale. The head of the farm, Dušan Šamaj, told the TASR news wire that the mine workers buy most of the mushrooms themselves in the local buffet and canteen. As there is also a demand for the mushrooms in the canteens of local companies and at nearby schools, only a small amount of the crop ever makes it into the shops.
The mine started to experiment with industrial-scale production of oyster mushrooms over 20 years ago. It was set up in tunnels that were not being used at that time and which had a relatively stable temperature and level of humidity. The mine's farm produced as much as 50 tons of mushrooms a few years ago, but production has decreased since some parts of the mine have been put back into operation.


Vyšné Nemecké
Border checkpoint closed to personal traffic

THE SLOVAK-UKRAINIAN border checkpoint in Vyšné Nemecké in East Slovakia's Košice region has been closed to passenger traffic and foot tourists for reconstruction since February 17.
Traffic is being diverted to the Ubľa border checkpoint in Prešov Region.The Vyšné Nemecké border checkpoint will continue to operate without restrictions for shipping traffic, regular passenger buses, private buses transporting more than 16 people, and diplomatic cars.
Police patrols and customs officers in Ubľa have also been stepped up.
The Vyšné Nemecké border checkpoint's reconstruction is connected to preparations for Slovakia's planned accession to the Schengen zone next year.


Valaškovce
Kyjov primeval forest reservation established

THE VLK (WOLF) environmental group has succeeded in helping form a new nature reservation in the Kyjov primeval forest. VLK head Juraj Lukáč told the SITA news wire on March 1 that they had submitted a proposal for the creation of the reservation and, along with other similar groups, took steps leading to its establishment. "On March 1, the Environmental Office officially announced the creation of this reservation," said Lukáč.
The Kyjov primeval forest is located in the Vihorlat mountains near the village of Valaškovce and covers almost 400 hectares. "It is an over one-hundred-year old beech and maple forest and it is the only forest of its size and quality in Slovakia and thus it deserves special protection," said Lukáč.

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