Hungary’s top beauty spots in Europe are threatened


Hungary, Sigriget (AP) — Fishermen on small wooden boats float between the reeds of Lake Balaton, one of Hungary’s natural treasures, and the calm waters of Central Europe’s largest lake. ..

Like many villages scattered along the coastline commonly known as the “Hungarian Sea”, the quaint village of Sigriget has maintained its traditional character for centuries. It goes against the possibility of nurturing.

Towering fortresses, whitewashed farmhouses, and small vineyards on rolling slopes have remained largely unchanged despite two World Wars, 45 years of communism, and the transition to Hungary’s market economy.

However, a new and formidable threat is imminent. Real estate speculation, countryside clearance to improve tourist access, and climate change combine to cast a shadow over the region.

Many of the lake settlements are already prey to speculative real estate development. Sigriget Mayor Daniel Balassa says he fears that the recent surge in construction will soon make the idyllic atmosphere of his village the next target.

“We don’t need huge buildings here, we don’t have to build the entire coastline. We have beaches and marina, we don’t need anything else,” Balassa told The Associated Press. Next to the reed bed on the shore of the lake.

The lake is about 50 miles (80 km) long and the coastline is 120 miles (200 km). With a silt bottom and shallow water (average depth of only about 10 feet (3 meters)), the lake has a delicate ecosystem that serves as a seasonal destination for various migratory birds.

However, the Hungarian government sees the lake as a potential gold mine for domestic and international tourism.

In 2016, the area was designated as a priority tourism development area, with 365 billion forints (1.27 billion) funded by Hungary and the European Union for the improvement of railways, the renovation and construction of roads, marina, hotels and guest houses. Dollar) has been assigned.

According to the Hungarian Tourism Board, 232 such projects have been implemented in 56 settlements in recent years.

“There is a huge destruction of the environment. Trees have been cut down, good quality reeds have disappeared and threatened the entire ecosystem,” Angela Bazzo, co-chair of Baraton’s civil action group Unity, told AP.

Reeds help maintain a healthy balance in the water and ensure a vibrant habitat.

“As the reeds disappear, we can no longer filter the water in Lake Balaton, which is one of the reasons why algae grow fast and fish die,” says Badzso.

Conservationist and environmental expert Zoltan Khun said that while the water quality of Balaton has improved significantly since the 1990s, reduced reed coverage can lead to imbalances in complex ecosystems. Said.

“The unfortunate truth of Hungary is … to measure the success of development in concrete square meters, not in specific bird or reed square meters around the lake,” Khun said.

After Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party came to power in 2010, the government dissolved the country’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. Khun states that the state’s ability to take care of its natural resources has declined significantly.

According to Khun, existing protection regulations are often selectively enforced or only fined slightly after the damage has already occurred.

Istvan Boca, chairman of the Lake Balaton Development Council and a ruling party member, argues that existing environmental regulations are sufficient to prevent the destruction of untouched parts of the lake.

“Everything is done on the coastline that has already been developed,” he says.

During the socialist era of Hungary, Lake Balaton was a popular vacation for many workers who could enjoy their vacation with trade union funding. Citizens of both East and West Germany can also visit the lake, making it a common meeting place for families with members living on either side of the Iron Curtain.

Since then, much of the infrastructure built during the socialist era is dilapidated and needs renewal, but remains an affordable destination for Hungarians of almost all economic backgrounds.

But now, with more luxury accommodation, plans are underway to increase yacht traffic on the lake for wealthier tourists.

The local mayor, Barassa, said that the magic of the lake and its village is to some extent inevitable for tourism and development growth, but should be carried out “on a human scale” with respect for the natural and cultural integrity of the region. Said.

“Not all new projects are terrible. We need to find something in common that everyone is happy with,” says Balassa.