A major construction project on Lake Fertő has been underway for several years, but now it may not happen. The change comes from recent criticism from UNESCO and the European Commission (EC).
The construction project aims to turn empty real estate by the lake into multiple projects. It would include a hotel, eco-park and eco-center, sports center, marina, camping sites, restaurants, and a parking lot with 880 spaces.
The investment into the project is 30 billion forints, or 86 million Euros. The project is taking place on the only area of the lake that has an accessible beach.
The government is in charge of the project, while government-owned Sopron-Fertő Touristic Development Nonprofit Ltd is coordinating the project. This means it is not in the hands of an outside entity or company. Instead, it is an investment the government hopes to make in the future of passport holders and those with residency.
This development project is already underway. The government has demolished some stilt houses that were privately owned and had been on the beach for decades. Additionally, the state-owned hotels are already being built.
This development at Lake Fertő is just part of the Hungarian government’s push to boost tourism.
The criticism of the Lake Fertő construction project comes from several sources.
From Stilt House Owners
As mentioned, the government already demolished stilt houses as part of the construction project preparation efforts. Unsurprisingly, the owners of those houses are strong critiques of the project. They argue that developing on Lake Fertő would lead to every other national park becoming open to development as well.
It Is Unique and Important Ecologically
Importantly, the lake has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. This designation comes from its uniqueness and natural composition. The area by the Fertő-Neusiedler Lake is Eurasia’s western-most steppe lake.
According to UNESCO, the lake’s current condition and uniqueness come from millions of years. The combination occurred because of the area’s unique history, including raising stock and viticulture. This specific combination did not occur in other lake areas in the continent, at least not as much as it did by Lake Fertő.
That uniqueness also means that it is a “valuable biosphere reserve” as it has incredibly diverse fauna and flora.
Another aspect of what makes the lake unique is the gorgeous and one-of-a-kind architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries. This architecture is a big contributing factor to the lake becoming a World Heritage Site.
The European Commission’s Investigation
The European Commission launched an investigation into the site and whether it violates any EU laws in mid-June. The commission’s concerns come primarily from the fact that Lake Fertő is a World Heritage Site. This process is relying on the EU Pilot Procedure, which lets Hungary and the EC have an informal dialogue about the issue.
Other Major Critics
In addition to UNESCO and the EC, other non-governmental organizations, including the Large Lakes Coalition, have already made their criticism of the project known. Approximately 6,000 Austrians and 12,000 Hungarians have signed petitions online. As of February 2021, there were already 21 organizations from 12 different countries criticizing the project; that number has since increased.
Despite the criticism, supporters of the development say it will be good for the region.
No Pollutant Emissions
The plans for the project first began in 2015, and from the start, project architects Zoltan Tim and Sandor Mohacsi have considered its impact on nature. Specifically, they have prioritized nature conservation throughout all of the project’s planning and development. The architects believe that the entire project can be ecological and economic. They argue that part of this comes from the plans for the eco-park, which will cover 12 hectares and host the various flora and fauna native to the Lake Fertő area.
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