Czechs rank fourth in environmental management

A new study produced by scientists from two American universities for the World Economic Forum currently underway in Davos ranks the Czech Republic fourth in the world when it comes to environmental management. The results of this study, carried in the British newspaper The Guardian, have surprised Czechs more than anyone else.

The study sounds like a dream come true for the Environment Ministry, as it puts the Czech Republic up there with the best of them: only New Zealand, Sweden and Finland do better in environmental management, it says. But given the numerous problems with the country's environment, how accurate is this report? The Environment Ministry's spokesperson Karolina Sulova is the first to admit that things may not be so rosy:

"The Czech Republic's high ranking is a matter of coincidence really. It all depends on what criteria you pick for your study. Last year the same scientists chose different criteria, and the Czech Republic was in 92nd place. This year they happened to choose criteria in which we excel, like the sphere of environmental health which concerns the quality of drinking water, sanitary services, access to hospitals in the event of an accident and such. That is why we got such high marks and placed so high in the world rankings."

Photo: Nový prales
The ministry can justly be proud of all this. Due to strict new standards and desulphurization technology the quality of air and river water has improved dramatically in recent years - but, having said that, the report is far from correct when it says, for instance, that no households in the Czech Republic burn solid fuels. Karolina Sulova again:

"That claim is a bit bizarre because if you look at any Czech village you will find lots of homes where they burn coal and other solid fuels. So one might say that the scientists who produced the study failed to double check the facts that they reportedly got from the World Health Organization."

The authors of this study admit that they encountered some difficulties in assembling reliable data for the project but they insist that their annual ranking indicates the direction in which individual countries are headed and shows how governments have dealt with the natural resources of their given country. So how does Jiri Tutter of the Czech branch of Greenpeace feel about the report?

"It would of course be very nice if the Czech Republic did so well, but taking into account the problems we have it is very surprising. For instance the report mentions greenhouse emissions - well, the Czech Republic has the highest rate of greenhouse emissions in the whole EU. Another point was park protection. If I remember well a year or two ago the Czech Republic had to pay a huge amount of money for failing to meet targets for park protection set by the EU. Of course there are some areas that have improved drastically over the past 15 years like the quality of air - thanks to the desulphurisation of power plants. But if we look at the overall environmental culture in the country, on the level of government or big corporations I am afraid that it really does not correspond to the results of this study."