A sport center, a hotel, an eco-center and eco-park, a large marina, multiple restaurants, camping sights, and an 880 car parking lot are planned to be built at Lake Fertő (Lake Neusiedl), the largest endorheic lake in Central Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Mechtild Rössler, has called on the Hungarian government to immediately stop the construction of the 30-billion-forint (EUR 86 million) investment. The area has remained untouched for decades, but some argue that the development is for the best.
The Fertő-Neusiedler Lake area is unique for being the westernmost steppe lake in Eurasia. UNESCO says that the current state of the lake is the result of millions of years of various land-use forms based on “stock raising and viticulture to an extent not found in other European lake areas.”
This area, a valuable biosphere reserve and gene bank, is home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna and has been shaped harmoniously for eight millennia by different human groups and ethnically diverse populations.”
The organization emphasizes that modern construction and development in the area must be controlled to ensure that the area’s authenticity is kept alive. While having its unique ecology, its 18th and 19th century palaces and unique architecture, as well as the human-ecological relationship that exists are what make it a World Heritage Site.
UNESCO Attempts to Stop Potentially Harmful Development
With regards to this emphasis, an ICOMOS report was shared with Hungarian Ambassador to UNESCO László Turóczy by Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre Mechtild Rössler, which liberal news portal 444.hu reported on.
The letter informs the Orbán government that if it does not immediately stop its “Fertő Shore Development” project, it will be threatening the location’s credibility and integrity. Not only this, but the park’s Outstanding Universal Value status could be removed.
Fertő Lake Shore Becomes State-Owned Property
The Hungarian government is building its “Fertő Shore Development” project on the only part of the lake in Hungarian territory where a beach is accessible. The government has taken control of construction on the said beach and has demolished the privately owned stilt houses which had been there for decades, much to the dismay of their owners.
Many of the owners of the stilt houses resisted the development, stating that if it succeeds, no national park will be safe from such projects.
The project is being coordinated by the Sopron-Fertő Touristic Development Nonprofit Ltd., owned by the government. The construction of the state-owned hotels is underway, under the contract of government-ally billionaire Lőrinc Mészáros’ company.
Lake Fertő Architects Say There Will Be “Zero Pollutant Emissions”
Award-winning architect Zoltán Tima, studio leader of Közti, and landscape architect Sándor Mohácsi, head of S73, told pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet that they had already been requested by the Municipality of Sopron to draw up a plan of the development in 2015.
Tima said that “it was already evident from our first visit that the development – due to its composition and nature conservation background – is at the same time both a magnificent assignment and a serious challenge.”
According to the architect, the project can be achieved with completely controlled, effective economic and ecological solution thanks to which “there can be practically complete harmony from an energy and water management perspective, with essentially zero pollutant emissions.”
The architects emphasized the planned 12-hectare eco-park and the eco-center connected to it, where not only marine life, but the “world of the reeds and birds can be introduced with the facility’s interactive exhibition.”
According to Landscape architect Sándor Mohácsi, “the purpose of this place is for the visiting individual to learn about nature, for which there is a need and a demand. But this must be done in a way which does not impact the much greater territory of the untouched region.”
Mohácsi believes it would be best, “if the first thought coming to the minds of most people arriving at the shore of Lake Fertő would not be how much construction and installation occurred in the area. It would be ideal if they would instead simply enjoy their stay, taking in the area’s beauty.”
Sopron Tourism CEO Says Multiple Accusations Are False
Béla Kárpáti, CEO of Sopron-Fertő Touristic Development Nonprofit Ltd., told Magyar Nemzet that the criticisms the development faces, such as accusations of environmental harm, a danger of accidents, and the construction of 16 tennis courts, are all false.
Kárpáti brought up that on the construction site, there are no World Heritage protected structures or areas, “thus, we did not bring untouched, especially valuable areas into the development.”
The area will feature a sport center with areas to play football, badminton, foot tennis, and tennis courts, Kárpáti said. On the Hungarian side of the lake, a European standard marina will be built along with an education center to teach kids how to sail.
Construction has already begun, and the CEO says, “the contract for the first phase of the development includes a net amount of HUF 8.9 billion (EUR 25.6 million), which has a weather-dependent lead time of 16 months.”
According to Kárpáti, the developments of the Hungarian side will be done on the model of the already-developed Austrian side, but “there will be no private property here, and we will put much more emphasis on community needs, and sustainability from an environmentally friendly perspective.”
Featured photo illustration via Fertő Lake’s Facebook page