Adaptation in small steps
The Hungarian village with appr. 1600 habitants is currently affected by climate change and extreme weather events in a limited manner. The primary hazards it has experienced are heavy rains, flash floods and inland inundation, which – unlike in cities – cause perturbations especially in streets with unmetalled roads, by impeding transport.
Moreover, a part of the settlement, the Malom-valley (Malom-völgy) is not only a habitat for a number of native species and is full of geological values, but its only water resource area provides drinking water to the village (and to the village only). Given that this area is located in a bare karst landscape, the water resource is directly recharged by precipitation. As a result, surface pollution can easily enter the water intake facility, endangering the quality of the drinking water. This problem can be exacerbated by heavy rainfall from the side of climate change but also by economic activities pursued on the surface of the water resource area. As far as the quantity aspect is concerned, with climate change, summers get hotter and the region needs more drinking water. As a result, the regional water supply operator would intend to connect the wells of Malom-valley to the regional network (at the same time it is shifting its production to the karst base instead of refurbishing the equipment producing water from the nearby Lake Balaton), which might endanger sufficient supply to Felsőörs.
In addition, it also needs to be mentioned that there are a range of development measures carried out / to be carried out in the village, which needed/need to be examined from the aspect of climate change. These measures can be subject to potential effects of current and future climate change / extreme weather events or can improve resilience of the settlement. Such measures are in particular the following:
- future covering of an unmetalled road (affecting 16 households)
- greening of the settlement
- tourism development based on geological values
- installation of solar panels
The overall objective of the presented measures has been the development of the village. The commitment of the Mayor has ensured that the aspect of climate change has been incorporated thereto.
The village has a yearly budget with predefined rows that consider or can be associated with certain climate hazards (eg. envelopes for remedy of damages or tree plantation).
Permeable covering of street: A development measure, namely, the covering of a street of 16 families was needed. The Mayor ensured that the aspect of climate change adaptation was taken into consideration in the planning phase – actually, he learnt about and proposed permeable covering to prevent flash floods in case of intense rain. Local residents were consulted about their opinion and preferences; they expressed the need for a pavement that can be easily removed and restored after later construction of ducts. Both expectations can be satisfied by the use of paving blocks.
Administrative means to protect the water resource area: The regional water supply network operator obtained permission to use the wells in the Malom-valley in 1996 but didn’t start production. The wells themselves have been under protection since 1999. The green NGO FÉK initiated a process to declare protection of the Malom-valley in the ‘90s but the municipality did not adopt it at that time. At present the water supply network operator expressed its intention to connect Felsőörs’ wells to the network. FÉK submitted its proposal again in 2016 and after adoption, the municipality declared that the entire Malom-valley (130 ha of forest and pasture) becomes a protected area of local importance, so that the water can remain of good quality and in sufficient quantity. Negotiations with the entities with adverse interests – the authority of forestry and the water supply network operator – are still ongoing with the aim to find a win-win solution.
Development of green surfaces including regular tree plantation and the development of the “Living Fossils’ Park”: The economic strategy of the village prescribes the development of green surfaces and plantation of trees both for mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. A park was developed in 2012 and certain areas (eg. the garden of the nursery) have been used to protect and create habitat for native species (eg. violet click beetle (Limoniscus violaceus)). Moreover, the Municipality has a yearly program of tree plantation in the village with a fixed budget (250.000 HUF or 820 EUR p.a.). The type of trees to be planted is determined together with the local residents year by year. It needs to be mentioned at this point that the village has two touristic sites that are specifically interesting from a geological point of view. Combining the ideas of tree plantation and the existing geological educational trails, an interested resident, whose hobby is geology, submitted a proposal to the municipality in 2015 to use the tree plantation program to develop a garden of plants of geological value. The Mayor has found out that this project can also be combined with awareness raising on climate change, by building on the theme of ‘plants that have survived climate change’. The Garden was developed from the municipal budget, the initiator resident provided the professional planning and organised the implementation and a number of local residents (at least 20 adults and several dozens of children) volunteered in the physical work to create the garden.
Resilient energy supply system: The municipality has installed solar panels to cover the energy needs of the water pumps that ensure the availability of drinking water in the settlement, public buildings (nursery, school etc.) and public lighting. As solar panels ensure independence from the regional power supply network, the electricity supply is more resilient to climate change hazards.
The Mayor is an environmentalist: graduated as environmental engineer, was secretary of the local green NGO FÉK and is still a member today, has participated in a training on climate adaptation and carries on the environmentalist attitude in his everyday work. He ensures that the aspect of climate change and more specifically climate change adaptation are taken into consideration in the municipality’s decisions.
Local residents can bring their ideas to the municipality as initiators. They also participate in the planning of a project and occasionally in the implementation as well. Most importantly, they benefit from the projects.
The local green NGO can bring their ideas to the municipality as initiators. They often participate in the planning of a project and are active in the implementation (ensure labour and expertise).
Professional service providers have participated in the planning and implementation of some of the presented solutions (eg. park development etc.).
There is now a well-established cooperation between the municipality and the green NGO. Moreover, local residents are provided a forum to express their views in the decision-making process.
Most measures have been financed from municipal resources.
The costs of some measures such as road pavement and the development of public lighting system are shared in a proportion of 50-50% by the Municipality and the relevant residents.
- Personal commitment of the Mayor
- Cooperation between the municipality and the green NGO, which provides enough critical mass for a project to be implemented, as one may not be enough without the other
- Direct cooperation between the local residents and the municipality. Ideas of the local residents are taken into consideration. In addition, many of them volunteer for municipal works, building the community at the same time.
Regarding the protection of Malom-völgy: conflicting interests and long-lasting bureaucratic processes with other entities such as the regional water supply network operator and the forestry authority. Firstly, the water supply network operator would intend to use the wells that currently provide water to Felsőörs only, while the municipality strives to have guarantees that the wells would keep on providing sufficient water to the settlement both in terms of quantity and quality, which both are in peril because of the connection to the regional network and future climate change. The municipality also strives to make the local residents understand and accept the options for a win-win negotiation with the regional water supply operator. Secondly, the forestry authority’s interest is to produce wood from the area, while Felsőörs’ municipality would like to keep it natural and intact (also for the sake of maintaining the water quality). Negotiations are also ongoing with them.
This case is a good example how potential future climate vulnerabilities can be built into current development projects, also taking into consideration existing assets (eg. geological educational trails as a basis for the development of the Living Fossils’ Park). It also emphasises the power of personal commitment and of cooperation with the local NGO and the villagers.