Photo: TASR

The socialist regime protected the environment better, air and water were cleaner

 “The socialist regime took better care of the environment, factories released less pollutants, air and water were clearer”

according to 54% of respondents participating in the April 2018 poll carried out by the FOCUS agency. 

Facts and disproval of the myth ↓

One of the socialist era consequences in our country is the devastated environment and extensive transferred environmental debts. The intensive economic growth and development of heavy industry during the socialist era, which were characterized by inefficiency, wasting, and great demands as concerned inputs, represented an enormous burden for the environment. The communist government had an indifferent approach to enforcement of environmental protection laws. Under soft financial conditions without the ownership responsibility and poor law enforcement, state-owned enterprises were not motivated to reduce their negative impacts on the environment. 

Significantly polluted air may serve as an example. The data concerning air pollution levels during the socialist era is available to a limited extent only because the regime concealed it. But the data collected by the beginning of the nineties show that the harmful air particle concentration in our country (and also in Hungary and Poland, for instance) was double the rate in Austria in the year 1990. 

In 1990, air pollution caused death of 110 people per 100 000 inhabitants on average in Czechoslovakia while in Austria it was only 44 people. 

The situation was similarly alarming as concerned water. The irresponsible approach typical for the water management during the socialist era is illustrated by industrial and other accidents. One of the largest ecological disasters in the history of Slovakia serves as an example. In May 1956, the Zemianské Kostoľany dam, behind which the fly ash generated by the Nováky thermal power plant was stored, burst. As much as 1.5 million m3 of fly ash containing high amounts of toxic elements and, in particular, arsenic entered the Nitra river. 

The regime´s ruthless approach towards the environment is evidenced also by a number of environmental burdens generated during the socialist era. The most famous case is the toxic waste dump of former chemical works in Bratislava where over 90 000 m3 of waste was placed between 1966 and 1980 without building any sealing elements. 

The regime concealed the information about the scope of environmental pollution and food safety from the public, which posed a permanent threat to public health. The seriousness of environmental issues during the socialist era is evidenced by extensive anti-regime activities organized especially due to the critical condition of the environment. The environmental burden heritage proves that environmental protection was marginalised during the socialist era (more in chapter 2.9 Environment and centrally planned economy).