Primary Sources

The Campaign to Save the Danube River


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. János Vargha was a biologist who had worked for the Hungarian Academy of Sciences for several years, and in 1984 was on the editorial staff of a scientific journal. In response to the proposal for the hydroelectric project, he became a vocal proponent of the environmental damage. This led him to become the founding member of Duna Kör, a group of environmental activists. In this speech from December 1985, he explains the potential devastation of the project at an award's ceremony of the Right Livelihood Foundation, an international human rights and environmental activism organization. In this speech, Vargha not only addresses the specific danger of this project but also brings international attention on the Communist regimes.


János Vargha, "Speech at the Right Livelihood Awards," speech, December 9, 1985, Right Livelihood Foundation, Right Livelihood (accessed June 15, 2007).

Primary Source—Excerpt

In order to protect Danubian environment and its benefits, our group, the Duna Kör participates in the opposition against a large hydroelectric power plant system Gabeikovo-Nagyrnaros. This project consists a 60 k storage lake, a 30 kill long concrete covered lateral canal rising up 18 meters over the ground at a peak power station of Gabcikovo and an additional river power plant of Nagymaros, in the Lovely Danube-bend.

The project would essentially change the hydraulic, physical chemical and biological conditions of a nearly two hundred kilometer long section of the river itself and also of the surrounding groundwater. These changes also that would be harmful to drinking water supply, the quality of river and ground water, agriculture, forests, fish as well as the picturesque landscape. The project has been planned some decades ago only to produce maximum energy and to increase excessively waterway capacity, unrequired by the heaviest traffic imaginable on this section of the river. In addition this would be relatively the most expensive electric power plant built in Hungary, and twice as much energy could be saved at the same price if money were spent on rationalizing energy consumption. The project has become a perfect nonsense taking its harmful ecological consequences into consideration. The question of drinking water supply has enormous importance because of its generally serious situation in Hungary and also in Slovakia.

Of Hungary's 3,500 settlements 1,500 have no potable water. Two and a half million people living in these regions get their drinking water supply in plastic bags or tank carts or short of these some have to make up with contaminated water.

How to Cite this Source

János Vargha, "The Campaign to Save the Danube River," Making the History of 1989, Item #315, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:23 pm).

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