Saving a region from drought: Homokhát pilot project (EEA-C3-6) - Study Visit

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[November 2016] The Homokhát is a micro-region in Hungary’s southern Great Plain, known both its occasional lack of rainfall and slight elevation compared to surrounding areas, both of which are factors that make drought a persistent concern. Water provision in the region is vital in order to sustain local agriculture and a burgeoning spa tourism industry. The participants travelled to the municipality of Mórahalom to learn about efforts facilitated through the EEA Grants programme. The total cost of project work was EUR 936,000, about 15 percent of which was covered from municipal funds. 

During the project’s implementation phase, a new, 1.8km-long canal was built to bring water to the micro-region from the Tisza River. The existing pumping station was modernised as well. Settlements that will eventually be connected via the channel to an already existing water storage system are: Domaszék, Mórahalom, Röszke and Zákányszék.

“This project is one that means the future to us,” Mórahalom Mayor Zoltán Nográdi candidly expressed to participants on the morning of October 6 at Mórahalom City Hall during his opening remarks. Three speakers followed, prior to the day’s scheduled site visits. Miklós Kószó, head of work organisation for Bana-Triplex Confinium EGTC, explained the details of the work carried out during the project period, complete with a number of pictures arranged chronologically by project.

“The main task at hand is to raise water from the Tisza some 15 metres to the micro-region,” Kószó explained.

Following Kószó was Zoltán Völgyesi, a water engineer from A-Mezőgép, with some technical remarks on cogwheel and sluice gate construction carried out within the project.

As part of the project’s intention to enable the sharing of best practices, Jose Costa Gomes, employed with the Portugal-based Edia-Empresa De Desenvolvimento Infraestrutureas Alquevea, shared his experience in being involved with Portugal’s largest hydro-agricultural investment. In terms of scale, the Alqueva involves an investment of roughly EUR 2.5 billion and covers a physical area of 10,000 km2. It is also designed to satisfy the water needs of approximately 1 million people in the Beja region of Portugal. While this is a considerably larger effort than the work carried out in the Homokhát region, the projects are developed to address similar concerns and enhance development opportunities for the future, such as: guaranteeing water for human consumption, agriculture and industry; improving the local environment; contributing to the development of high-quality tourism infrastructure; and creating new business opportunities.

“We are eager to share our experiences and learn from each other,” Gomes emphasised.

The group travelled next to two sites outside of Mórahalom. The first was to see part of the new canal network, and the second was to another canal site and new pumping station. Zoltán Völgyesi provided further on-site details and answered questions from participants. Völgyesi explained that one difficulty to overcome was to reach agreements with private citizens who owned land where water installations were to be built. Another question was related to whether or not farmers paid for water for crop irrigation or whether irrigation costs were subsidised either from the national government or local municipality, with the former generally being the case.