Ostrava is a city in the north-east of the Czech Republic and is the capital of the Moravian-Silesian Region. It is 15 km from the border with Poland, at the meeting point of four rivers: the Odra, Opava, Ostravice and Lučina. In terms of both population and area Ostrava is the third largest city in the Czech Republic, the second largest city in Moravia, and the largest city in Czech Silesia; it straddles the border of the two historic provinces of Moravia and Silesia. The population was around 300,000 in 2013. The wider conurbation – which also includes the towns of Bohumín, Doubrava, Havířov, Karviná, Orlová, Petřvald and Rychvald – is home to around 500,000 people, making it the largest urban area in the Czech Republic apart from the capital, Prague.
Ostrava grew to prominence thanks to its position at the heart of a major coalfield, becoming an important industrial centre. It used to be nicknamed the country’s "steel heart" thanks to its status as a coal-mining and metallurgical centre, but since the Velvet Revolution (the fall of communism in 1989) it has undergone radical and far-reaching changes to its economic base. Industries have been thoroughly restructured, and the last coal was mined in the city in 1994. However, the city's industrial past lives on in the Lower Vítkovice area, a former coal-mining, coke production and ironworks complex in the city centre boasting a unique collection of historic industrial architecture. Lower Vítkovice has applied for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Since the 1990s Ostrava has been transformed into a modern cultural city, with numerous theatres, galleries and other cultural facilities. It hosts a wide range of cultural and sporting events throughout the year. Among the best known are the Colours of Ostrava multi-genre music festival, the Janáček May classical music festival, the Summer Shakespeare Festival and NATO Days. Ostrava is home to two public universities: the VŠB-Technical University and the University of Ostrava. In 2014 Ostrava was a European City of Sport. The city co-hosted (with Prague) the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in 2004 and 2015.
Ostrava is situated at the meeting point of four rivers: the Odra, Opava, Ostravice and Lučina. Thanks to its location in a broad river basin known as the Moravian Gate, Ostrava is mostly low-lying (highest point 210 m above sea level), and has a Central European climate with typical flora and fauna. It differs from most neighbouring regions by the high concentration of industry, dense population and the geographical conditions of the Ostrava basin. The climate features hot, humid summers and relatively mild winters, with an average annual temperature of 10.2 °C (January: -1.2 °C, July: 23.5 °C) and average annual precipitation of 580 mm. Ostrava is 20.5 km across (as the crow flies) from north to south (Antošovice–Nová Bělá), and 20.1 km across from east to west (Bartovice–Krásné Pole). The total length of the city’s road network is 828 km.
The city, with a total area of 214 km2, is divided into 23 Municipal Districts. On 14 September 1990 Ostrava’s City Authority decided to divide the city into 22 districts, effective from 24 November that year. On 1 January 1994 the district of Plesná broke away from the Poruba district to become the youngest Municipal District. Some of the Municipal Districts are further subdivided into smaller units.
Ostrava’s high concentration of heavy industry means that the city faces certain environmental problems, particularly in relation to air quality. Measurements performed by the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute show that levels of atmospheric benzopyrene and dust particles rank among the highest in the country. Although Ostrava still has to contend with environmental issues, much progress has been made and continues to be made – not least thanks to the implementation of strict environmental requirements by ArcelorMittal, one of the biggest polluters in the region. In 2015 ArcelorMittal implemented 13 major ecological investment projects worth CZK 3 billion; one new installation filters out 61 tonnes of dust per year. The City of Ostrava is also involved in a range of projects focusing on environmental improvements. These include the special web portal www.dycham.ostrava.cz, which enables citizens to monitor current air quality indicators, and a project funding short “health breaks” for children from high-risk areas. One of the most pressing environmental problems currently facing the city concerns the oil lagoons at the site of the former Ostramo chemical plant. In 1996 the Czech government took control of the site and drew up plans for a cleanup; the state-owned company Diamo was created to implement these plans. The situation has recently been the subject of government-level discussions, and the Finance Minister Andrej Babiš visited Ostrava in March 2015; the situation is currently under review by the Ministry of Finance, which is drawing up conceptual documentation and will then announce a public tender for the cleanup work.