a bulletin on global warming and the Third World

issue 7  January 1993

published by the International Institute for
Environment and Development (London, UK) and the
University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK) with support
from the Swedish International Development Authority in
association with the Stockholm Environment Institute

editorial office:  TIEMPO, c/o Mick Kelly, School of
Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia,
Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK (email gn:crunorwich)


ZOLTAN ILLES discusses the need for Hungary 
to revise environment and development policies and
avoid Western mistakes.

HUNGARY is facing fundamental social, economic and
cultural changes. New, modern environmental policies
are needed and must be integrated with government plans
for industrial development, agriculture, energy,
transportation, tourism, commerce and education.

During the old communist regime, every facet of human
existence, from production through transportation to
consumption, placed its own particular burden on the
environment. These burdens were difficult to recognize
as they did not represent immediate threats to human

The policies of the old regime, which forced the pace
of development in energy production, coal mining,
metallurgy and heavy industry, ignored environmental
protection. Large-scale collective farms were also
detrimental to the environment. Production processes
requiring incredibly high levels of raw material and
energy consumption became wasteful and pollutant. The
government demanded production regardless of financial
cost and the result was low efficiency practices
harmful to the environment, such as the dumping of
untreated waste.

The established industrial lobbies still continue to
use the environment in this detrimental manner. We
cannot continue to follow the old regime's destructive
policies. Our non-renewable resources are limited. Our
renewable resources are deteriorating. We are polluting
the environment at a rate which hinders healthy,
sustainable economic growth.

The amount of environmental investment is still only 1%
of the Gross National Product (GNP) of Hungary.
According to experts, the cost of environmental
deterioration in 1985 was about 100 billion forints, 6
to 8% of our GNP, as a result of acidification of soils
and waters, the cost of corrosion, health care and the
cure of respiratory diseases, and so on. In 1990, the
cost of environmental deterioration was between 200 and
240 billion forints, 12 to 13% of the GNP.

At present, environmental pollution significantly
limits the possibilities for economic development. The
increasing price of water, the deteriorating quality of
the soil and the shrinking forests all increase the
costs of production. The polluted environment decreases
the marketability of our agricultural and processed
food products.

We must develop an overall strategy which concentrates
on prevention. But we must also moderate and eliminate
previous damage to the environment.

The regions hit the hardest by industrial air pollution
are in the Sajo valley, in the Tata basin, and in the
industrial region of mid-Transdanubia. In areas of
heavy traffic not only are sulphur and dust pollution
high but concentrations of hydrocarbons, lead, nitrogen
oxides and soot exceed the acceptable standards of air
quality during the greater part of the year. There is
still a large number of two-stroke engines in Hungary.
Industry emits 40-45% of all air pollution, traffic
35-40% and communal heating approximately 20%.

Only 45-48% of the population has access to a drainage
system. Public health in more than 700 Hungarian
municipalities is jeopardized because of nitrate and
other contamination (arsenic, for example) in drinking
water. A significant proportion of sewage
transportation and treatment equipment is not suitable
for the proper disposal of sewage and leaks also
pollute the environment.

Three-quarters of the drinking water supply can only be
used after treatment because of foreign and domestic
pollution. Approximately 65% of our stocks of drinking
water is not furnished with appropriate natural
protection against surface contamination (such as
nitrate, phosphate, ammonia and bacterial).

Hungary produces annually more than 100 million tons of
industrial, municipal and other waste in liquid and
solid forms. Of this, five million tons are hazardous.
In 1988, 16.5 million cubic metres of refuse was
treated in the settlement network, 28% of which was
produced in Budapest.

Waste collection is still centralized and heavily
subsidized by the government. This sector lacks
incentives and technology. Landfill space is being
exhausted, and the few incinerators which exist have
high pollution problems. Separation and recycling are
virtually non-existent.

Consequently, our soils and surface and underground
waters are also contaminated. Along the roads and in
some agricultural areas, the lead concentration in the
soil exceeds the natural concentration by ten to 100

To remedy these problems, Hungary has a tremendous
capacity for investment opportunities in the areas of:
o    transportation planning and air pollution impacts;
o    waste water treatment systems;
o    domestic and special waste management;
o    environmental education and awareness;
o    environmental management planning;
o    data collection, such as air and water pollution
o    monitoring analysis and impact assessment of
o    technology to monitor pollution;
o    information systems to process data; and
o    accident planning and prevention.

Education is needed at all levels. The most important
priority is the training and continuing education of
specialists who are capable of fulfilling the
environmental and nature conservation managerial tasks.
Relevant subjects should include the technical,
economic, legal and social features of environmental
protection and environment management. The coordination
and exchange of environmental education programmes must
also be promoted. Information concerning environmental
education fields and centres should be made public and
continuing education should be organized on a regular

Pollution and contamination does not recognize borders
and, for this reason, Hungary can take the initiative
to improve the environmental state of Eastern and
Central Europe through the distribution of
environmental information, research results and
technologies in the region. We should focus attention
on avoiding the import of goods and technologies which
contaminate the environment. 

Unfortunately, the colonization of Eastern and Central
Europe by technologies and products which are not
environmentally friendly has already begun. Stopping
this process is the responsibility of all human beings
on the continent. The principle,  not in my backyard ,
sooner or later has to be changed into the principle,
 not on planet Earth. 

In Hungary today, politicians are still avoiding the
question of environmental protection. They fear that
environmental regulations will jeopardize the
privatization process and western investment. 

According to several economic studies, this fear is
unjustified. First, large international companies
involved in Hungary are concerned with their prestige
both at home and worldwide. Thus, they are motivated to
clean up and preserve the environment. Second, the need
for environmental investments is great. The problem is
the lack of economic incentives and the lack of sound
government policy. For example, waste management firms
are blocked from investing in Hungary because the legal
framework to develop safe waste management policies is
either non-existent or existing regulations are not
enforced effectively.

I foresee that Hungary's environmental problems will
get worse over the next two to three years. Public
awareness will increase and the public will pressure
the government for change. Also, as the economy comes
out of recession, more financial resources for
environmental protection and joint investment will
become available.

All of the industrial societies, blinded by the
pressure for ever increasing technological development,
have created the present environmental crisis. People
worldwide have degraded nature and continue to waste
resources as if these non- renewable assets are

We must all reevaluate our relationship with nature. We
must enforce a new scale of values in all of the
economic and social spheres. Instead of unlimited
growth and maximum consumption, we must turn to
development which is in harmony with nature and which
can sustain long-term growth.

Doctor Zolt n Ills is a member of the Federation of
Young Democrats (FIDESZ) Green Faction.