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Hungary Table of Contents


Environmental Problems

Rapid industrialization and the priority of plan fulfillment over environmental concerns have produced serious air and water pollution problems in Hungary. In the late 1980s, about 38 percent of Hungary's population lived in regions where air pollution exceeds international standards. Electric plants burning high-sulfur coal and automobiles emitted most of the pollutants that fouled Hungary's air. The country's sulfurdioxide emissions in 1984 totaled 1.8 million tons, an average of 17.6 kilograms per hectare. Prevailing winds from the west and southwest carried 70 percent of Hungary's sulfur-dioxide emissions into neighboring countries, but acid rain had damaged 25 to 30 percent of the country's forests. Government efforts had succeeded in reducing dust pollution.

Pollutants also fouled the rivers and ground water. The Tisza, Danube, Szamos, Sajo, and Zagyva were Hungary's most polluted rivers, and the water supplies of 773 towns and villages were not fit for human consumption. In 1970 Hungary emitted 1.5 million cubic meters of polluted water per day. Industrial waste from chemical, rubber, iron, paper, and food-processing industries accounted for 70 percent of the effluent, of which only 27 percent was treated. Only 46 percent of Hungary's population had an adequate sewage system.

In the 1980s, Hungary annually produced 5 million tons of hazardous waste, and it reportedly imported hazardous waste from Austria, Switzerland, and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in return for hard currency. After three years of public protest, in the late 1980s Hungary began constructing an incinerator in Dorog capable of burning about 25,000 tons of hazardous waste per year. Hungary operated a nuclear-waste dump between the villages of Kisnemedi and Puspokszilagy, but precise information on the disposal of radioactive waste from the country's nuclear power plant was unavailable.

Hungary signed the United Nations Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution in 1979 and the Helsinki protocol on sulfur-dioxide emissions in 1985. In 1987 and 1988, the government passed new pollution regulations and obtained loans from the World Bank (see Glossary) to improve pollution control. Hungary had antipollution agreements with Czechoslovakia and Austria but had no such agreement with Romania and complained about Romania's chronic discharge of phenol, oil, and other pollutants into the Tisza and smaller rivers.

Data as of September 1989