Michal Kravčík: The Environmentalist

One of the most decorated international Slovak enviromentalists is Michal Kravčík, the chairman of the environmental NGO "People and Water," which prepares alternative and sustainable ecological projects .
A native of the eastern Slovak city of Košice, Kravčík has influenced the ecological opinions of both the public and state authorities - no easy feat, he said, considering the problems he ran into under the former government of Vladimír Mečiar.
In 1993, Kravčík prepared an alternative ecological project for eastern Slovakia's Tichý Potok River, which assured local residents that they would have access to clean drinking water without the aid of a proposed dam which would have destroyed several 700 year-old villages.


photo:Sharon Otterman

One of the most decorated international Slovak enviromentalists is Michal Kravčík, the chairman of the environmental NGO "People and Water," which prepares alternative and sustainable ecological projects .

A native of the eastern Slovak city of Košice, Kravčík has influenced the ecological opinions of both the public and state authorities - no easy feat, he said, considering the problems he ran into under the former government of Vladimír Mečiar.

In 1993, Kravčík prepared an alternative ecological project for eastern Slovakia's Tichý Potok River, which assured local residents that they would have access to clean drinking water without the aid of a proposed dam which would have destroyed several 700 year-old villages.

Although Kravčík presented a viable and less expensive alternative, he said that the government simply did not want to listen, instead prefering to hastily build their dam. When Kravčík began to gain support for his proposal, he said that police were sent to investigate his activities.

"Due to the environmental ignorance of the former government, we didn't even attempt to cancel the project, " Kravčík said. "Instead, we just tried to find alternatives. Our alternative cost 500 million Slovak crowns and did not require the construction of a dam. Had the dam been built, it would have cost 6 billion crowns."

In 1999, Kravčík was awarded the Goldman Prize for environmental excellence. The award solidified Kravčík's international status as an environmental leader, but was barely mentioned in the Slovak press.

Unfazed by the lack of domestic recognition, Kravčík pressed on. After the successful Tichý Potok project, Water and People helped 21 eastern Slovak villages find sources of clean drinking water.

Refusing to take all the credit, Kravčík said that such feats were made possible by "the attitude of the ordinary citizen who wants to solve problems at the grassroots level. They are pro-active through development, renewal and promotion of the traditional cultural diversity of this region."

In 1993, Kravčík promoted a water management concept for Slovakia called Water for the Third Millennium. The programme called for the reformation of water management institutions, with an emphasis on decentralising economic power in solving water management problems. The broad goal of the project was to enforce ecologically sustainable development practices in Slovak watersheds. In 1994, the Slovak parliament ruled that the government must include the project in official water management policies.

Kravčík has organised several other drinking water projects in eastern Slovakia, many of which have been accepted by the current Environment Ministry. He has also organised environmental awareness discussions, workshops and publications - for example, Blue Alternative (launched in 1996) a magazine which informed citizens about the environmental stances of politicians in the 1998 elections.

Under his leadership, Water and People was awarded the Sasakawa Peace Evnviromental Award, while Kravčík recently participated in a world conference tackling environmental issues of "our drying blue planet" in Washington.

A graduate of the Civil Engineering Faculty of the Technical University in Bratislava, Kravčik is a water management engineer.

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