The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've somehow become super-ecofriendly. This month, we highlight the future of Košice, the second largest city of Slovakia.
Košice once had the Hornád river flowing through it near the city’s center. The river descends from the Carpathian mountains through the city and out again across the Hungarian border to the south. Once upon a time, Slovaks happily caught fish from the river and happily served them at the dinner table.
Back in the 1970s, when Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia, the Communist government decided to have the Košice stretch of the river filled-in, paved-over, and a ring road built in its place. The water flow was diverted away from the city’s center past factories and into the suburbs. The diversion had a great impact on the water-creatures downstream, which are probably only just recovering. The gaping concrete channel where the river once flowed is now painted with blue wavy lines, themselves rather faded and peeling, which serve as a pathetic reminder of where the river had once flowed.
Košice is a steel city; the economy being dominated by a huge steelworks on the outskirts. In the past, the steelworks have led to the pollution of streams that have flown into the Hornád. Parts of the river are still very pretty and tree-lined but it has many dilapidated sections and most parts are devoid of once diverse animal life.
The commercial viability of the steelworks is actually quite dubious but the Slovak government is very keen to keep it afloat in the future with subsidies, tax incentives, and lax environmental laws. One result is that some Košice suburbs are now bathed in sulfurous smog and soaked in heavy metals almost every day.
Eventually though, in early 22nd century, the steelworks is set free onto the market without subsidies. The very next year it closes down, and the environment of Košice rapidly improves. Enough steel lies in store to keep people employed in constructing the new blue city envisioned above. And by 2121, the river is allowed to flow through the city center once again, bringing coolness and freshness to Košice, and healthy waters good enough for fishing again.
One of the policy lubricants that encourages this 'Blue/Green' transformation in Košice is the rise of 'tax nomination'. When filling out their yearly tax forms, each taxpayer in Slovakia ticks one of five boxes nominating where they want most of their tax to go. They can tick a box indicating 'national security' or 'health and education' or 'arts & sports' or 'business investment' or 'nature and environment'. Via this process of 'tax nomination', the Slovak army disintegrates into nothingness since the vast majority of Slovak's choose to invest in clean water and good public health instead.