Hungarian government jeopardizes natural values

fidusz Gaia Sajtószemle Ked, 2015-04-28 12:15

Today the Hungarian Parliament accepted a bill that would bring degradation in the natural values by taking the land management rights of state nature conservation organisations. This act leaves no doubt that the government has the intention to further decrease the level of nature conservation, as decisions in the recent years have already put the conservation system in Hungary on a downhill run.

Hungary was in the forefront of nature conservation for a long period, having strong legislation, a well-developed system of governmental institutions, a good network of protected areas based on state-owned land, and a very active group of nature conservation NGOs. In the last decade the government decisions deteriorated the system step-by-step[i], losing the chance to step up for conservation in a very critical time.

The Parliament accepted today a new act on management of state-owned lands, which may lead to further negative outcomes for nature conservation and shifts the system to a point where there is no return.
Hungarian National Park directorates currently manage approximately 300,000 hectares of state-owned land in protected areas, through active conservational management (habitat restorations, agreements with local farmers, grazing with local breeds, etc.). These land management actions form the bases of the actual Hungarian nature conservation and ensure the favorable conservational status of the Natura 2000 network in Hungary. The new act seriously influences the well-developed system with transferring the management rights of state-owned protected areas to a central agency, where the focus is more on state property policy than on nature conservation.

As BirdLife Hungary, Friends of the Earth Hungary and WWF Hungary are deeply concerned about the outcomes of the proposed act, several actions were taken to turn the processes into the right direction. At the request of the three conservation organizations, thousands of people also expressed their concerns on the draft by sending letters to decision-makers.

"The law accepted today goes fundamentally against our constitutional right to a clean environment, thus jeopardizing the right of future generations to health. Therefore we will ask for the help of the President, the Ombudsman and all parties of the Parliament, who can challenge laws at the Constitutional Court, in order to elide the law" said Katalin Sipos, director of WWF Hungary.

“In our opinion with the last steps we have reached a tipping point, where if we keep going downhill we will not be able to restore what was lost during this process. We call for immediate action to stop the downhill run and to start strengthening the once illustrious system of nature conservation.” – said Gergő Halmos, director of Birdlife Hungary.

“As biodiversity suffers from serious decline across the world we need a strong and reliable system to be able to face the challenges ahead. We need a system where the government bodies are responsible for nature conservation, the National Park directorates hold the right of management of protected areas, a system where these institutions receive the funding for their basic operations from the state budget, a system where the conservation of natural resources are taken into account in every government decision.” – said István Farkas, the chairman of Friends of the Earth Hungary.

BirdLife Hungary, Friends of the Earth Hungary and WWF Hungary hereby call every potential partner to contribute to stop the further erosion of Hungarian nature conservation and cooperate on protecting the unique natural heritage of the Pannonian Biogeographic Region.

Notes to the editor
[i]Based on the analysis of BirdLife Hungary, Friends of the Earth Hungary and WWF Hungary the steps responsible for deteriorating the nature conservation system in Hungary during the last decade were the following:
1.     Cutting the budget of National Park directorates constantly and forcing them to finance themselves from their own income (since 2004). Erosion of governmental financial support for self-contribution of EU and international projects.
2.     The abolition of the independent Ministry of Environment. First integration into Ministry of Rural Development, then weakening and separating parts of the former Ministry. (2010)
3.     Experimenting with new reorganization ideas in the nature conservation system every year.
4.     Decreasing the available state funding for environmental and nature conservation NGOs.
5.     The integration of the already malfunctioning environmental and nature conservation authorities into regional government offices with weakening of the rules regarding environmental permit processes. (2015)

(GAIA Sajtószemle)