Today's Czech Republic, the western part of former Czechoslovakia, is considered to be one of the most environmentally devastated countries in the whole of Europe (Figure 6.1). In particular, environmental degradation is concentrated in the industrial and urban regions such as northern Bohemia, northern Moravia and Prague (Figure 6.2). The reasons for the rapidly deteriorating quality of the environment were similar to those in other state socialist countries as they were deeply embedded within the logic of the state socialist development model. Environmental quality rapidly deteriorated during post-Second World War socialist industrialization, and the development of an extensive regime of accumulation focused on the rapid expansion of heavy industries largely fuelled by low-quality brown coal and lignite. Although the state socialist regime had developed a comprehensive environmental legislation to deal with the pollution problems, it had not been efficient in enforcing its own strict pollution limits. The state socialist planners had always considered production to be primary and feared that too much environmental consideration would endanger the plan fulfilment (see e.g. Carter 1985, 1993; Pavlínek 1992, 1995, 1997; Vaněk 1996; Tickle and Vavroušek 1998).
The goal of this chapter is to provide a brief assessment of the environmental effects of the post-communist transformation in the Czech Republic that took place after 1989. The collapse of the state socialist regime in Czechoslovakia was understood by many as a historic opportunity to end the environmental degradation associated with its state socialist model and to launch a more environmentally sustainable future. However, disagreements occurred almost immediately over how to achieve this goal. For neo-liberals, the mere introduction of a market economy would lead to rapid environmental clean-up. Others believed that a more sophisticated approach toward environmental reconstruction was needed. Two contrasting views of the post-1989 period in terms of its environmental effects have been presented. First, many politicians and governmental officials consider the transformation to be a complete success in terms of its environmental outcomes and they believe it led to a remarkable environmental recovery (e.g. Holman 1995, p.5). They point toward rapidly declining pollution levels and improving environmental indicators as the evidence of this 'success'. The second view,