The Ombudsman for future generations on Earth Day

On the occasion of Earth Day, celebrated in Hungary for 25 years, Ombudsman for future generations Marcel Szabó has expressed his appreciation and gratitude to all those who introduced this high-impact awareness-raising and community-building movement in Hungary and contributed to the success of the related events. April 22, 1990, the first ever commemoration of Earth Day in Hungary, was also an important milestone in the development of the Hungarian green movement.

As a result of the joint efforts of environmental associations, the protection of nature has become an essential part of the public discourse and public action. Frugal, environment-friendly and nature-compatible behavior is spreading, the aspects of sustainability have become uncircumventable even for the economic actors.

Traditionally, Earth Day provides us an opportunity to review the state of the Earth and our homeland, to take into account, in addition to the results achieved, our still unsolved and emerging problems. The threat of climate change and the diminution of non-renewable resources notwithstanding, frugal utilization of natural resources is far from having become a generally accepted concept. Although agricultural land, water resources, native wildlife and its diversity are protected by the Fundamental Law, in practice we often have to face the destruction of natural water habitats, air and water pollution, soil-destroying agricultural practices, outdated methods of forest exploitation, and the irrational use of our best agricultural land and precious urban green spaces for the purpose of greenfield investments or the construction of housing complexes and shopping centers, respectively.

The slowing down of environmental remediation, planned for several decades anyway, is one of the most distressing factors. Environmental pollution, attributable to the irresponsible acts of previous generations, is an actual time bomb threatening the health of the present and future generations, as well. As a result of procrastination, toxic materials are spreading in the soil and in the waters, leading to a further increase in the costs of remediation. It seems that this cardinal issue of environmental and nature protection and environmental health does not receive proper attention, on a par with its significance, either in the decision-making process or during the allocation of resources. As far as occasional remediation is concerned, selection criteria are not clear and it is impossible to identify a uniform strategic approach. The priority list often mentioned as a reference basis is not accessible, the criteria of its compilation are not public, either. For efficiency's sake, the list of areas subject to remediation and the risks contained therein should be made public, and the order of priorities of remediation should be determined with the involvement of society.

Thousands of tons of improperly stored, dangerous industrial waste have been polluting the soil, surface water and groundwater resources and the air for decades, occasionally in the immediate vicinity of protected areas, e.g., in the case of the waste storage facility of Balmazújváros-Lászlóháza, or in a densely populated region, e.g., in the case of the Illatos Street site of the Budapest Chemical Works. With the grave risks presented by the latter in mind, the Ombudsman for future generations is going to initiate an ex officio inquiry by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, so that the clarification of jurisdictional disputes could facilitate an quick and efficient solution. Based on the obligation to protect future generations, stipulated in the Fundamental Law, all economic, governmental and administrative stakeholders shall address their responsibilities with firmer resolve and do everything in their powers to continuously reduce this environmental debt and prevent further environmental damage.