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Landslides threaten many areas

GEOLOGISTS warn that Slovakia faces an unpleasant spring as ground under or around many family houses across Slovakia may begin to move again and threaten the dwellings. After last year’s destructive landslides in Nižná Myšľa and Kapušany in eastern Slovakia, sloped land in Košice-Krásna, Slivník and Krupina, and near the highway at Považská Bystrica, has already been in motion. While the hard freeze of winter stopped this movement, it is feared that landslides could begin again after the spring thaw.

GEOLOGISTS warn that Slovakia faces an unpleasant spring as ground under or around many family houses across Slovakia may begin to move again and threaten the dwellings. After last year’s destructive landslides in Nižná Myšľa and Kapušany in eastern Slovakia, sloped land in Košice-Krásna, Slivník and Krupina, and near the highway at Považská Bystrica, has already been in motion. While the hard freeze of winter stopped this movement, it is feared that landslides could begin again after the spring thaw.

“Many sliding plots, especially in eastern Slovakia, are still soaked with water after last year’s extreme rains,” Miloslav Kopecký from the Department of Geotechnics at the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava told the Sme daily. “I expect that the rise in temperature and thawing of snow will result in further [land]slides.”

Experts estimate that potential movement of slopes directly endanger more than 550 out of 2,891 towns and villages in Slovakia which have been built in landslide zones. According to the publicly accessible atlas of slope stability, www.geology.sk, there are 21,190 slope deformations which could suffer landslides at any time. These areas comprise 5.25 percent of the total land area of Slovakia.

Due to research over the past 50 years into landslides, Slovakia belongs among the best-examined countries in the world but it has equally systematically neglected prevention of geological disasters, Sme wrote, stating that research knowledge and examinations are not being used in practice. A change in the construction law that would require a geological examination in order to obtain a construction permit may help address the situation. But no Slovak government has pursued this thus far, Sme wrote.

Landslides in Slovakia have annually caused damage totalling millions of euros. Experts are convinced that changes in the construction law may significantly reduce occurrences and the associated damage in Slovakia, Sme wrote.

Past governments have ignored the warnings of experts and Sme offered examples from two revisions in the construction law adopted during Robert Fico’s government, stating that the Slovak Association of Engineering Geologists failed to incorporate the duty of self-governments to incorporate knowledge about landslide zones or the obligation of a builder to submit results of a geological examination when seeking a construction permit into the law. The daily wrote that as a result some construction offices continue to issue construction permits in localities with geological hazards, adding that the ‘hot-iron’ revision made to the geological law after last year’s floods just before the parliamentary election solved the consequences of landslides but not their prevention.

Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, after visiting flood-hit villages last year, promised that her cabinet would deal with the issue of landslides.

The Ministry of Construction is now working on a so-called large-scale revision to the construction law which has been in place since 1976. The ministry said it plans to introduce its proposed changes to the public later this year but Sme noted that there are not even any hints that the draft will deal with prevention of geological hazards and their economic damage.

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