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Gabcikovo-Nagymaros River Dam System. Created by Tom Sauve Hungary Geography 308. The Mighty Danube River. Starts near Germany and extends through Austria, along Slovakia, through Hungary, and along Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria before emptying into the Black Sea. Danube Dangers.

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Gabcikovo-Nagymaros River Dam System

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gabcikovo nagymaros river dam system

Gabcikovo-Nagymaros River Dam System

Created by

Tom Sauve


Geography 308

the mighty danube river
The Mighty Danube River
  • Starts near Germany and extends through Austria, along Slovakia, through Hungary, and along Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria before emptying into the Black Sea
danube dangers
Danube Dangers
  • The Danube has been known to cause many raging floods among bordering lands.
  • Roman emperors Tiberius and Trajan were the first to try to contain the Danube they failed.
hungary and czechoslovakia
Hungary and Czechoslovakia
  • Negotiations for the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam system began in 1951.
  • The project’s original intent was to change the shallow reaches of the Danube between Bratislava, Czechoslovakia and Gyor, Hungary.
  • Joint planning began in the mid to late 1950s with an emphasis on regional and environmental impacts.
outlay of the project
Outlay of the Project
  • The system diverted almost the entire flow of the river into an artificially constructed side channel.
  • The canal was to be diverted near Bratislava and then flow and return to the Danube north of Gyor.
  • The diverted channel drives 8 turbines at the Gabcikovo Dam which generates hundreds of megawatts of power.
The Soviet Union strongly supported the project, as it had large fleets of ships that transported goods through Eastern Europe.
the dam to the rescue
The Dam to the Rescue!
  • Dam officials recorded more than 100 days of shallow water per year.
  • As a result, vegetation died and ships were left stranded on a long stretch of the Danube.
  • These events prompted dam authorities to gain large support from both Hungary and Czechoslovakia to fix the problem by building a system of dams.
energy production
Energy Production
  • In the 1970’s, the focus of the dam was turned to energy due to two main factors:
  • Oil shocks caused petroleum prices to go on a steep increase making it the best interest of both countries to produce more efficient energy.
  • In order to gain support from the Hungarian bureau of water management, the project needed to emphasize energy production.
why hydropower
Why Hydropower?
  • Hydropower is the cleanest large scale source of electricity available, being non-polluting and renewable.
  • If properly engineered and managed, river dams can provide electricity for millions of people at a very low cost along with minimal ecological impact
  • The building and maintenance of dams provides jobs, helping the economy.
construction of the system
Construction of the system
  • Both countries began work on the system in 1977 under an official treaty.
  • Ecological concerns were beginning to arise among citizens.
  • Once work began, professional protest of the dam was slienced by the Hungarian and Czechoslovak governments.
  • It became obvious to both governments that the huge impacts of the dam on the local ecosystems hadn’t been fully considered.
  • Both countries decided to halt work on the dams in 1981 while commissions from both sides of the border evaluated the effects of the dams.
damage to the aquifer
Damage to the aquifer?
  • Scientists predicted drinking water from the aquifer would be polluted due to tar carcinogens in reservoirs throughout the system.
  • They also predicted the water table would fall enough to cause farmers to lose irrigation water.
hungarian predictions
Hungarian Predictions
  • Budapest immediately pushed for postponement or even cancellation of the system after the Hungarian Academy of Sciences predicted widespread ecological devastation.
czechoslovak predictions
Czechoslovak Predictions
  • Scientists at the Laboratory of Fisher Research and Hydrobiology in Bratislava prepared a report predicted that the yearly fish harvest from the Danube would fall 75% within 2 years of completion, killing millions of fish.
  • Other investigations highlighted effects of depression of the water table.
  • Prague immediately dismissed the predictions.
czechoslovakia proceeds
Czechoslovakia Proceeds
  • Due to Czechoslovakia’s industrialization, Prague ignored the warnings of its scientists and proceeded to benefit from the dam’s electricity.
hungary initially stands put
Hungary Initially Stands Put
  • Hungary was angered by Czechoslovakia's decision to proceed.
  • Hungarian studies confirmed that Hungary would bear the brunt of environmental damage.
  • After looking into the economic costs already placed on the system, Hungary was “forced” back into the project.
  • Failure to complete the project would have cost the Hungarian government 55 billion forints (Hungarian currency at the time)
political transformation
Political Transformation
  • Unhappy with Hungary’s slow pace to build Nagymaros, the Czechoslovak government threatened to use the nearly completed Gabcikovo dam to cause massive floods in Hungary.
yet another delay
Yet ANOTHER Delay!
  • 17 days later after making their threat to Hungary, the Prague communists were ousted from office.
  • The new government of Vaclav Havel (1989) cancelled the project.
  • Havel however did not retain power for long and resigned.
enter the slovaks
Enter the Slovaks
  • Under pressure from the Slovak minority, the Czech government announced resumption of the project.
  • The Slovak flag was to be flown from the engineering office and shipping tolls were to be payable to the Slovak Treasury.
slovak pride
Slovak Pride
  • The Gabcikovo dam was a symbol of pride, sovereignty and will and the Slovak people were willing to do anything to ensure its completion.
After gaining independence in 1993, Slovakia set out to finish the project on its own.
  • They modified the plan by creating more canals inside Slovakia making the entire project an internal affair.
Upset by Slovakia’s decision, Hungary took its case to the International Court of Justice upon completion of the project claiming an ecological disaster.
Hungary sought out to gain attention from the rest of the world to gain Western aid and show that they could work their problem out with Slovakia.
  • Their plan was to attain ecological concern in trying to attract help in demolishing the Nagymaros dam and their section of the project.
international ruling
International Ruling
  • The ICJ ruled both countries at fault for acting unilaterally:Hungary for pulling out of the projectSlovakia for continuing with construction.
baby steps
Baby Steps

A mutual agreement was set forth by both countries:

Slovakia was to operate the dam at 25% capacity with a continuous water flow

However, it diverted 80% of the river, drying up wetlands and wells in Hungary

hungarians rally
Hungarians Rally
  • Hungary consequently pulled out of the agreement.
  • Mass demonstrations were organized all throughout Hungary.
  • Hungary has been spending millions of dollars to take down its half-completed dam.
  • It could very well be forced to spend much more to Slovakia for compensation for pulling out of the deal.
  • Talk of a return to the International Court of Justice is a sure sign that neither country is very committed to resolving the solution.
  • If you take a stroll down both sides of the Danube:
  • You will see the Gabcikovo region in Slovakia well off and thriving.
  • You will also see the “water storing” Hungarian side overrun by weeds and dry.