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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Storočná voda

THE RELATIONSHIP between nations and nature can take different forms. Some countries live in constant fear of earthquakes, tornadoes or volcanoes. For others, oil, gas, or metals represent their main source of income. Slovakia’s relationship is not so passionate. Its main commodity and its main threat are the same – water. It has rich underground reserves in the south. And from time to time floods strike all across the country. This week it was Bratislava’s turn. The Danube reached record levels, there was justified talk of a ‘hundred-years’ water’ (storočná voda). The other thing which becomes visible at such moments is just how well the flood-protection system, the latest parts of which were built over the last decade, handles the pressure – very well, at least so far.

THE RELATIONSHIP between nations and nature can take different forms. Some countries live in constant fear of earthquakes, tornadoes or volcanoes. For others, oil, gas, or metals represent their main source of income. Slovakia’s relationship is not so passionate. Its main commodity and its main threat are the same – water. It has rich underground reserves in the south. And from time to time floods strike all across the country. This week it was Bratislava’s turn. The Danube reached record levels, there was justified talk of a ‘hundred-years’ water’ (storočná voda). The other thing which becomes visible at such moments is just how well the flood-protection system, the latest parts of which were built over the last decade, handles the pressure – very well, at least so far.

This proves two important points. Firstly, that there are some areas where you really can’t do without the state. Seeing the local courts, hospitals or schools it is easy to forget that public institutions are usually created to be the solution, not the problem. And secondly, sometimes the state can do its job right. Which naturally leads to the question – why not more often? Why is dysfunction so prevalent? The answer is simple. There are no natural barriers preventing waiters from being more helpful, bureaucrats from being less corrupt, and repairmen from doing their job on time. It’s all about people. And sadly, it often seems that even a hundred years is not enough to change the local mentality.

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