An Emerging Environmental Movement
In 1984, the Czechoslovak and Hungarian governments announced a new public project: the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros complex on the Danube River, a 3 billion dollar water project, that would involve the construction of two massive dams (one in each country) and a series of hydroelectric plants. In response to this action, an environmental activist group emerged, later called Duna Kör or Danube Circle. In this speech by Judit Vásxheiyi, one of Duna Kör's founding members, she explains the process by which the movement emerged, as well as the broad sweep of opposition to the project. Most troublesome for the Communist regimes was the public opposition of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, who publicized the expected environmental damage of the project, which would affect 200 km of the Danube, flood 50 islands, and destroy over 120 km2 of forests and fields for uncertain advantages. In response to public pressure, Hungary abandoned its plans in 1989, though Czechoslovakia continued construction.
Judit Vásxheiyi, "Speech at the Right Livelihood Awards," speech, December 9, 1985, Right Livelihood Foundation Right Livelihood (accessed June 15, 2007).
The Duna Kör, an informal group, leads back its rise to the winter months of 1984 to a period, when the question of the project was first taken up by the public. Open debates were held at the universities, in colleges and in local clubs of the official Patriotic Front, all of them visited by hundreds of people. Voices in scientific and professional circles and in the literary world opposing the project have also become louder. As mentioned above, the Presidium of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences suggested to stop the work in progress. Of the professional groups, it was the architects and engineers led by technical as well as by moral motives to take the lead: their national association took an official stand against the project, maintaining to this day. Dozens of eminent writers following an East-Central-European tradition of the literati being deeply concerned with the vital questions of the region, expressed their anxiety about the project, the open discussion planned by the Association of Hungarian Writers, however has been postponed due to political pressure for an indefinite time. The public in Hungary has been more and wore occupied with this problem. In the beginning of 1984 a group of students and intellectuals: biologists, architects, artists, historians, lawyers, sociologists and teachers initiated the foundation of an association for the protection of the Danube. The application for registration however, has been blocked by the authorities. Nevertheless, those signing the application decided to collect and to publish information concerning the project even among such circumstances.