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The legacy of environmental degradation in Eastern Europe under Soviet rule has been well documented in recent years since the fall of the iron curtain Western media has been engulfed with horror stories from the former Soviet states and Poland in particular known as the Dirty man of Europe has not escaped criticism for its environmental negligence There are certainly some spectacular examples of disregard for the environment to be found in Poland suffocating air in the major cities levels of Sulphur dioxide far exceeding those of western Europe and the US widespread damage to historical structures and monuments as a result of acid rain dangerous contamination of soils and water sources so polluted they cannot even be used for industrial purposes In fact according to the Polish academy of Sciences a third of the nations thirty eight million people live in designated ecological disaster areas This checklist only scratches the surface of some of Polands environmental problems but it is none the less alarming A half-decade into the transition to market democracy Polands economy has the highest growth rate in Europe and it is argued that environmental protection is vastly improved Between 1990 and 1993 air pollution in Poland fell by 40 While some analysts discounted these improvements claiming that they were merely symptoms of the economic recession that accompanied Polands jump to the market Polands economic recession ended in 1992 The economy grew by 2 and industrial output rose by 4 while at the same time air pollution fell 15 from 1991 levels In 1993 economic growth doubled to 4 and industrial output was up 7 But air pollution continued to decline by 9 So recession could not have been the predominant cause of environmental improvements in Poland A number of academics contend that it is the economic base of socialism which is root cause of such environmental degradation Such critics highlight certain characteristics of socialism which they argue makes damage to the
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