Drought threatens Hungarian lake with environmental crisis

Aug 13, 2021, 12:07 PM | Updated: Aug 14, 2021, 12:20 am
People enjoy the sunny day in the Lake Velence in Agard, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Activists a...

People enjoy the sunny day in the Lake Velence in Agard, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Activists and environmental experts in Hungary say the effects of climate change and insufficient infrastructure are colliding to threaten the country’s third largest natural lake with an economic and ecological crisis. Lake Velence has lost nearly half of its water in the last two years as hot, dry summers have led to increased evaporation and deteriorating water quality. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)

(AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)

              General view of Lake Velence in Agard, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Activists and environmental experts in Hungary say the effects of climate change and insufficient infrastructure are colliding to threaten the country’s third largest natural lake with an economic and ecological crisis. Lake Velence has lost nearly half of its water in the last two years as hot, dry summers have led to increased evaporation and deteriorating water quality. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)
            
              A man walks out from the Lake Velence in Agard, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Activists and environmental experts in Hungary say the effects of climate change and insufficient infrastructure are colliding to threaten the country’s third largest natural lake with an economic and ecological crisis. Lake Velence has lost nearly half of its water in the last two years as hot, dry summers have led to increased evaporation and deteriorating water quality. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)
            
              A man walks out from his homemade boat in the Lake Velence in Agard, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Activists and environmental experts in Hungary say the effects of climate change and insufficient infrastructure are colliding to threaten the country’s third largest natural lake with an economic and ecological crisis. Lake Velence has lost nearly half of its water in the last two years as hot, dry summers have led to increased evaporation and deteriorating water quality. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)
            
              A fisherman shows a carp in Lake Velence in Agard, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Activists and environmental experts in Hungary say the effects of climate change and insufficient infrastructure are colliding to threaten the country’s third largest natural lake with an economic and ecological crisis. Lake Velence has lost nearly half of its water in the last two years as hot, dry summers have led to increased evaporation and deteriorating water quality. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)
            
              People enjoy the sunny day in the Lake Velence in Agard, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Activists and environmental experts in Hungary say the effects of climate change and insufficient infrastructure are colliding to threaten the country’s third largest natural lake with an economic and ecological crisis. Lake Velence has lost nearly half of its water in the last two years as hot, dry summers have led to increased evaporation and deteriorating water quality. (AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh)

GARDONY, Hungary (AP) — Lake Velence, a shallow, freshwater lake in central Hungary, is a haven for over 100 types of birds, dozens of species of fish and throngs of tourists who come to bathe in its waters for relief from the hot summers.

But many of the lake’s visitors, both animal and human, have disappeared as extreme heat has brought the water to dangerously low levels, something activists and environmental experts say threatens the country’s third largest natural lake with an economic and ecological crisis.

They say climate change and insufficient infrastructure are colliding, with devastating effect. The lake has lost nearly half of its water in the past two years as hot, dry summers have led to accelerating evaporation and deteriorating water quality.

“We are talking about years of rainfall deficit, drought and a continuous water shortage,” said environmental management engineer and activist Tibor Horanyi. “For years we’ve seen what role global warming is playing in our lives, and it’s clearly connected to this low water level.”

The optimal water level for Lake Velence (pronounced ‘VEH-len-tseh) in August is 150 centimeters (5 feet), according to the local water authority.

But on Thursday, the water level stood at 80 centimeters (2 feet 7 inches), an amount of water that Horanyi called “critical.”

Hot, dry weather can result in as much as 1 centimeter per day evaporating from Lake Velence, according to official measurements. Those decreased levels have meant water temperatures are rising faster, causing diminished oxygen content, increased proliferation of algae and reduced water quality.

Following a long, cold spring, Hungary experienced its third hottest June since 1901 and then the hottest July on record, according to the national meteorological service.

The extreme heat caused the water temperature in the lake to rise by 10 degrees Celsius (18 F) within a week in June, Horanyi said, resulting in the death of more than four tonnes (8,800 pounds) of fish that were then removed by volunteers.

Otto Balogh, a local fisherman, told The Associated Press that the conditions in the water were clearly visible, and had impacted his catch.

“There are no fish. In the last three weekends that I’ve come here, this is the first time I caught anything,” Balogh said.

Shallow marshlands on the lake’s western end have dried up completely, and many of the birds normally seen in the lake’s bird sanctuary have disappeared.

“There aren’t any water birds now. They’ve gone somewhere else to find food, I suppose,” Balogh said.

In July, the local public health department ordered the closure of four beaches on Lake Velence, citing water quality samples that did not meet required standards.

While most of the beaches have since reopened, few bathers venture in the water, which due to the low levels scarcely reaches their waists even if they wade more than 100 meters (yards) out.

The low water levels, dying fish and closed beaches have led to a dramatic decrease in tourism at local restaurants, bars and hotels, said Peter Vas, a local resident and activist, threatening further hardship for a local economy already hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of money has been invested here by traders, restaurateurs and holidaymakers to make it a great place to enjoy themselves,” Vas said. “This lake has to be saved.”

Activists have urged Hungary’s government to take action to protect the lake from further deterioration, and to provide the resources necessary to bring the water back to minimum levels.

But continuing hot weather and infrastructural deficiencies have prevented a quick fix to the crisis.

Two reservoirs were built in the 1970s to provide water to the lake if levels dropped too low. But a spokesperson for the national water authority said that drought and extreme heat had caused low water levels in those reservoirs as well, leading to high algae content which makes the water unsuitable for remedying the lake’s water deficit.

Zoltan Tessely, the government commissioner responsible for the development of Lake Velence, told local television station Fehervar TV last week that he had submitted a proposal to the government for replenishing the water in the lake — but that the government had rejected the $133 million price tag, saying it needed the funds to support economic recovery after the pandemic.

Vas, the local activist, acknowledged that the lake has dried out before, noting that in 1863 the Hungarian hussars trained with their horses in the lake bed.

“But now it’s the 21st century,” he said. “We must have the ability to save this natural protected area.”

With no immediate solution in sight and only warm, dry weather in the forecast, only political will can avert an environmental disaster at Lake Velence, he said.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of climate change issues at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-change

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron stand on the stage during a State Arrival ...
Associated Press

To boost Georgia’s Warnock, Biden heads to Massachusetts

WASHINGTON (AP) — To help Democrats win their 51st Senate seat in a Georgia runoff election, President Joe Biden is headed to … Massachusetts? Days before polls close on Tuesday, Biden still has no plans to visit Georgia. Instead he’ll aim to help Sen. Raphael Warnock’s reelection campaign from afar with appearances Friday at a […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: December 2, Senate condemns McCarthy

Today in History Today is Friday, Dec. 2, the 336th day of 2022. There are 29 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Dec. 2, 1954, the U.S. Senate passed, 67-22, a resolution condemning Republican Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, saying he had “acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

UN: Iraq Christians were victims of Islamic State war crimes

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Evidence collected in Iraq strengthens preliminary findings that Islamic State extremists committed crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Christian community after it seized about a third of the country in 2014, a U.N. investigative team said in a report circulated Thursday. The report to the U.N. Security Council said […]
21 hours ago
A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found ...
Rebecca Boone, Associated Press

Victims’ families urge love, kindness as Idaho campus mourns

As hundreds of students mourned together inside the University of Idaho’s stadium Wednesday night, family members of four slain classmates urged them to raise their eyes from grief and focus on love and the future.
21 hours ago
FILE- Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani attends the "Invest Karnataka 2016 - Global Investors Meet"...
Associated Press

Indian coal magnate Gautam Adani goes green

NEW DELHI (AP) — Asia’s richest man, Gautam Adani, made his vast fortune betting on coal as an energy hungry India grew swiftly after liberalizing its economy in the 1990s. He’s now set his sights on becoming the world’s biggest renewable energy player, by 2030, adroitly aligning his investments with the government’s own priorities. As […]
21 hours ago
FILE - This photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what it says a test-fire of a Hw...
Associated Press

Seoul places new sanctions on North Korea over arms buildup

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Friday sanctioned eight people and seven companies suspected of engaging in illicit activities to finance North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons and missile programs. The move, which prohibits South Koreans from conducting any type of business with them without authorization, was largely symbolic as there are little financial […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Drought threatens Hungarian lake with environmental crisis