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Velky Krtis – Combating environmental injustice, one chimney at a time

21 June 2023

In Velky Krtíš, Slovakia, environmental injustice literally hits home for many of the 700 members of the Roma community, living only in a couple of residential blocks in the segregated part of town. During the winter months, residents face severe risks: the current heating practices are extremely dangerous for the families (a broken chimney is fire hazard), the growing energy prices are crippling the already strained family budgets and the air-pollution affects the entire town (and the atmosphere of Planet Earth).

MRGE’s MARIO project provides financial support, and builds the capacity of rural, grassroots minority organizations, including a local initiative, Komunitné Centrum Mensin, that aims to improve environmental and financial literacy of the local Roma community. Their trainings are focusing—among other things—on better and safer heating practices, limiting waste and toxin emissions and climate justice. The team also hopes to inspire the locals to participate actively in advocacy efforts in support of better environmental policies on a municipal, regional and national level through their networks.

This work can not be done by Roma activists and social workers alone: certified chimney sweeps are badly needed to educate locals on more efficient energy use, toxin reduction and alternative heating options and to fix the damaged heating systems. However, the city’s chimney sweeps are reluctant to come to the Roma side of the city, so the locals are often left alone without the basic services provided in life-threatening situations.

Currently, the neighbourhood is served by one single elderly man, who is the only certificated chimney sweep who is willing to raise and try to resolve these often very technical issues with the locals. He has been doing the job for five decades, and soon he would pass the torch/sweep to the next generation.

Hopefully, he is soon to have an apprentice joining ranks: Mr. Boris Horváth, an activist from the community, who aspires to be trained as a chimney sweep. However, there is a long way ahead—after two years of training he will need to complete an apprenticeship of an other two years to be a certified chimney sweep—not to mention the financial difficulties he will need to solve on the way before his dreams can come true, and will be able to serve his community.

The project, with the help of Mr. Horváth will continue to connect the communities—minority and majority alike—by improving the heating conditions and reducing toxic emissions, for a better and healthier future for all.

This content is a guest post from one of our partner organizations about their work as part of our ‘Minorities, Accountability, Rights, Independence and Organisational Development’ (MARIO) programme. Learn more >

MARIO is funded by the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (2021-27) of the European Union (ref: 101091387).