This profile was prepared when Michal Kravcík was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
An internationally respected hydrologist, Michal Kravcík has developed a "Blue Alternative" water management policy that utilizes numerous small reservoirs and depressions to catch and store water, takes necessary measures to slow runoff and restore wetlands and transfers control of water resources from central government to local self-government. In all these respects, his approach contrasts sharply with official Slovak water management policy, which was defined in the early 1950s and emphasizes large dams. The government has so far rejected his alternative, on the grounds that there is insufficient evidence that it would successfully generate enough water. A testing ground for Michal's idea has emerged in the northeastern Slovak mountains, near the 700-year-old villages of Tichy Potok and five of its neighbors, where the government declared its intention in 1992 to build a large dam.Through careful monitoring of a pilot project, Michal has been gathering evidence that his approach, together with repairs and efficient use of the existing water system, can generate a sufficient supply of water even as consumers demands grow in the cities downstream from Tichy Potok. The "Blue Alternatives" will also increase the ecological stability and biodiversity of the region and does not require sophisticated equipment and large energy inputs. In addition, it involves outlays amounting to approximately twenty percent of those associated with the construction of the proposed large dam and implemented by local people, it is providing jobs in an area where unemployment is twice the average rate in Slovakia. The residents of the Tichy Potok area have adopted Michal's approach-it is the first time in 50 years that Slovak communities have taken an independent decision on land. Michal believes that the project has the potential to generate community stewardship in an environment in which land collectivization caused widespread economic and environmental destruction. He also foresees that his Blue Alternative must be part of a broader development program for the affected communities and has introduced additional mechanisms for local empowerment.