Getting the word out: Tát study visit

Tát City Hall welcomes NGO forum and press trip participants to explain EEA Grants-funded project on rainwater management and adaptation to climate change

On a sweltering and humid afternoon in early June, more than two dozen participants involved in a pair of 25th anniversary of the Regional Environmental Center (REC) side events travelled by bus from Szentendre to Tát City Hall to learn about a recently implemented EEA Grants-supported pilot projectcalled “Elaborating a Concept for Precipitation Management and Adapting to Climate Change in the Settlements of Tát and Tokod”.

The aim of the pilot project is to address water-related concerns in two adjacent Hungarian municipalities about 60 kilometres from Budapest. Tát and Tokod are settlements on the Danube bend that in recent years have come under increasing threat from severe flooding and high groundwater levels. While these events are not unheard of in the region, their increasing frequency and severity is widely attributed to climate change.

The Tát visit on June 10 was a joint activity for two groups involved in separate side events organised for the week of the REC’s 25th anniversary (June 8–12) under the COP21-based theme ‘Road to Paris’. One group was taking part in an NGO forum and included participants representing organisations from Albania, Hungary, Kosovo*, Serbia, and Ukraine. The other group was made up of journalists taking part in a four-day press trip to Szentendre to learn more about climate change and environmental issues to more effectively report on these issues to their respective media outlets. The journalists came from Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Other visitors included REC staff involved in the “Precipitation Management” programme, as well as side-event presenters representing Al Gore’s ‘The Climate Reality Project’ and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Programme manager Judit Balint of the REC provided background information about the climate change adaptation programme and the aforementioned pilot project before the group boarded the bus. She also touched on some of the other projects being implemented under the programme — namely, the National Adaptation Geoinformatic System (NAGiS), which is currently under development.

After the visitors arrived, the mayor of Tát, Lajos Turi, opened with a description of the effects of climate change for his community and the measures that are being taken to minimise water-related damages in the future.

“I'm sure that climate change is having an impact on everyday life", Turi said. “With massive changes in precipitation throughout Hungary, winters are more humid and summers are drier. While our local people have worked hard to make our towns 100 percent flood-proof, our biggest problems are from drainage and groundwater. We have high hopes, however, that this EEA Grants programme will help us to explore and manage these issues.”

The group heard next from the former mayor of Tát, Lajos Szenes, and the current mayor of neighbouring Tokod, Tivadar Tóth. The presentations concluded with a technical summary from

Erzsebet Piesko, representing DHI Water & Environment, an independent, international consulting and research organisation. A brief Q&A session followed before the visitors departed for Szentendre.

“It’s really amazing to see what’s taking place here at the local level,” exclaimed Djordje Samardzija from Serbian NGO ‘One Degree’ on the bus ride back to Szentendre. “I can’t imagine a single mayor in my country even acknowledging the existence of climate change, let alone wanting to do anything about it.”

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Photo credit: Natasha Dodovska

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.