Photo by Tomasz Pezold
Tb eNEWS - 11 - October 2017 - newsletter cover
Tb eNEWS - 11 - October 2017

IN FOCUS: Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland in the heart of Europe

A conservation atlas for transboundary conservation areas

Restoration of the Rio Bravo-Grande


News
02.09.2019.
Mega tourism project threatens the European IUCN category II national park
The Master Plan of the tourism development (Sopron-Fertő Turisztikai Nonprofit Zrt., visualisation: KÖZTI Zrt.)
The Master Plan of the tourism development (Sopron-Fertő Turisztikai Nonprofit Zrt., visualisation: KÖZTI Zrt.)

The Hungarian government is planning a mega tourism development project inside the Fertő-Hanság National Park (see promo video here) and invest 7,4 million EUR public fund in destroying nature. The Fertő-lake, which is part of the transboundary Fertő-Hanság National Park, is inscribed on IUCN’s World Database on Protected Areas managed by UNEP-WCMC (see the link to the national park here). This area is among the few Hungarian protected areas which are registered in the database as IUCN Category II. While tourism use would be possible, the planned tourism complex of 13.6 hectares is not something to be considered as ecotourism by its scale:

880 parking lots (estimated daily traffic of 3000 cars) port for 450+ yachts port for 350+ paddling boats 100-room four-star hotel an indoor sport complex  camping and motel.

Fertő-Hanság is a transboundary protected area, which – together with its Austrian sister park Neusidlersee National Park  - is often claimed as a best practice example of transboundary cooperation. The responsible county administrative body in Hungary considers no transboundary impact by pursuing this project. However, the analysis of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Natura 2000 assessment documents shows that this conclusion is false, because these assessments did not calculate with (a) the impact of increased traffic on roads and water, (b) the increased tourism pressure which will impact also the Austrian area (and will require extra visitor management, law enforcement and interpretation efforts from both Fertő-Hanság and Neusiedlersee National Parks), (c) the climate impact as the investment will result in 13,6 ha new artificial cover which might increase local temperature and decrease carbon sinking potential, and (d) the visual impact. Because of the likely transboundary impact, the Hungarian government should have contacted the Austrian stakeholders within the framework of the Espoo treaty on EIAs. However the Hungarian authorities refused to share any information officially with the Austrian partners, but kept repeating their views: no transboundary impact is expected.

The Fertő-lake is part of a transboundary UNESCO World Heritage site with the Neusidlersee National Park and is also a UNESCO Man & Biosphere reserve (see here). The WH Secretariat provided an encouraging response to Hungarian citizens and offered help through the Austrian and Hungarian National Committees. If the investment proceeds, the Hungarian NGOs might suggest a UNESCO-IUCN-ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring Mission. The Ramsar Secretariat has already expressed its interest to make this as a joint mission with its representative.

The area is also a Natura 2000 site protected in the framework of both the Habitats and Birds directives. Last but not least, the area is also a Ramsar site. The Austrian Ramsar Committee organised a bilateral meeting on 31 July 2019, which resulted in strong media coverage in Austria. Hopefully, this will be an eyeopener in both Austria and Hungary, and the investment will be stopped. Otherwise, we will have to face with the following potential environmental consequences:

loss of wetland habitats, which are important to mitigate climate change release of carbon into the atmosphere and decreasing carbon sequestration potential of natural habitats increasing the traffic which will rise GHG emission and potentially lead to more wildlife-car collision, endangering the threatened amphibian population increasing threat to protected birds species including the IUCN red listed Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata) or Western March harrier (Circus aeruginosus).

For more information, please contact Zoltán Kun at zoltankun71@yahoo.com