Intervento di Péter Kajner, MAKK - Hungarian Environmental Economics Centre
The valley of Tisza, including our project area is often afflicted by heavy floods and droughts. Four floods between 1998 and 2002 caused extremely huge damages, two of these floods were the biggest in a hundred years. However, irrigation was needed in several places even during the floods because of droughts, which are frequent in the Great Plains of Hungary. Studies point out, that the main problem of the region is not the lack of water or floods alone, but the disharmonies of the weather and the watercourse. The climate change may worsen the situation, as the moisture will decrease here, and in the whole Carpathian Basin. Intensive farming causes ecological harms and can not provide welfare for the people who live here. This region faces severe economic, social and ecological problems at once.
We accept the conclusion of a lot of experts on the topic, that the root of all these problems is a water management and economic, agricultural system that works against nature. We deem it necessary to find ways to cooperate with nature to ensure the welfare of the ecological system and the society at the same time. The way of cooperating with nature in the Tisza catchment area (and in regions with similar problems) could be to restore ecosystems and the connection between the river and its affluents. The river, its affluents and the ecosystems of the catchment area form a complex system, that works in harmony in case it is not disturbed. If the elements of this system are destroyed and/or isolated from each other, disharmonies arise in the functioning of the system.
The so-called 'floodplain farming' had been a traditional way of farming for centuries in the Tisza-valley and nearly all larger rivers of Hungary. The building of the water-control system (based on building parallel dikes with the river) destroyed this method of farming in the last one and a half centuries.
However, the now dominating system has caused serious problems, as shortly described above. The dikes can not be built high enough to protect people from floods, and the disharmonies of the water supply cause disprofit for the agriculture. The floodplain farming levels off the extremities of the régime of the watercourse as it stores the water of rainy seasons for dry seasons. The floods fill the deeper areas near the river, and these serve as temporary ponds, which can be used for fishery, for natural 'irrigation' and for several other purposes. The flora - first of all forests - also store a huge amount of water. Evidences show that this method of farming, in cooperation with nature may help the ecological, economical and social revitalization of this area.
We have been working on a project to restore traditional floodplains-farming systems and wetlands in the Bodrogköz, in Northern Hungary by the river Tisza. The project is founded on a stable theoretical basis, and we have done quite a lot during the last two years to examine the possibilities of restoring the local water and eco-systems to raise the safety against floods of the area, to restore the functioning of the self-controlling natural system and to build an operable local economy and raise the living standard of the people living here. Our project is hoped to be a pilot project of the restoration of floodplain farming.
This project is a joint landscape-rehabilitation program of twelve Bodrogköz municipalities (Alsóberecki, Bodroghalom, Felsőberecki, Karcsa, Karos, Kisrozvágy, Nagyrozvágy, Pácin, Semjén, Tiszacsermely, Tiszakarád, Vajdácska) and three Hungarian NGOs (E-misszió Association, MAKK Foundation, Palocsa Association). The participants of the program founded the Bokartisz - Bodrogköz Environmental Management and Landscape Rehabilitation Public Nonprofit Company in 2001, for the planning and realization of the landscape rehabilitation work.
The results of the two years practical and of a 15 years preliminary theoretical research were summarized in the 'Conception of the Bodrogköz Landscape Agriculture System Cooperating with Nature' (downloadable from http://free.x3.hu/bokartisz in Hungarian). MAKK has reviewed the effects of the economic and social processes of the last several decades on the local society, summarized the environmental effects of farming in the region and the possible new ways of husbandry here. The conception outlines the possible answers for today's problems. The revitalization of the local water and ecosystems can be a sustainable basis of the local agricultural system. We have set up an agri-economic model to estimate the economic consequences of the changing of farming systems (a rough cost-benefit analysys for our model area of 12 municipalites). The recommended strategy is compatible with the Common Agricultural and Rural Policy of the EU (the Bodrogköz is an Environmentally Safe Area since 2003), and may be economically profitable for local farmers in contrast with today's farming system. The parts of the study dealing with the ecological system of the model area and the possibilities of revitalization of the local river-system have been prepared by the Palocsa Association and the E-misszió Association. The research was carried out by the support of the Hungarian Ministry for Environment; Phare Micro Access - I Program, 1999 and the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Fund.
The Bodrogköz is divided into two parts by the political border: the Upper-Bodrogköz is situated in Slovakia. Bokartisz has started a cross-border cooperation with several municipalities of the Upper-Bodrogköz, beacause a complex water management and ecosystem revitalization cannot be carried out only on the one side of the border. The Slovakian municipalities have won a Phare-grant for a research work of a similar kind as Bokartisz had carried out the last years. This cooperation gives the opportunity of handling the Bodrogköz as a geographic unit neglecting the political border. This process is helped by the fact that Slovakia and Hungary are going to become members of the EU at the same time in 2004.
We think most of our results will be applicable to the larger region of the Bodrogköz and even the Tisza-Valley. Bokartisz participates in the planning of the Further Developement of Vásárhelyi's Plan (short description see below) - this way our results may be applicable in several more regions by the Tisza in Hungary. Our aim is to try to secure that the considerations of rural development and ecological revitalization will be an organic part of the FDVP. Two storage-lakes are being planned and will be built in the Bodrogköz until 2007 with their accompaniing water system in the framework of the FDVP (the Cigánd-Tiszakarád reservoir system), together with the necessary landscape management and ecological rehabilitation plans. Bokartisz has an active part in the planning. The Bodrogköz is a model area of the FDVP for landscape management, so our (positive or negative) experiences will be able to be be used along all the Tisza for other storage-lakes of the FDVP in the long term.