The activity of the firm Hubertus Ltd. seriously endangers the aquatic wildlife on the south shore of lake Balaton, on the Nagyberek Fehérvíz Nature Reserve. The enterprise – due partly to the inadequate procedure of the water management authority – has caused severe natural damage to the region under domestic and international protection – this was stated by Mr. Sándor Fülöp, the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations in his investigation terminated recently.
According to the examination of the green ombudsman, due to the water drainage of Hubertus Ltd., the company farming in the region called “Nekota” of the Nagyberek Fehérvíz Nature Reserve, the water-bound wildlife, especially the highly protected bird species nesting there, have become endangered. The investigation has revealed that the emergency was inflicted also by the dysfunctions of the water law licensing procedure.
The Commissioner stated that only in 2009, thirty-two years after the territory has been declared protected, was the water law license issued, ordaining the necessary water level by taking the nature conservation values into consideration. However this license was repealed by the National Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection, Nature Conservation and Water Management.
Based on the guidelines of the Chief Inspectorate, the water law license issued in the repeated procedure did not take into account the territory’s nature conservation needs and function any more. The licenses issued by the water management authority are contrary to the resolution on declaring the protection, which is valid since 1977, and the Natura 2000 regulations compulsory since 2004, concerning the territory. The license of the water management authority violates the regulations, because it does not order as an obligation for the Hubertus Ltd. the water level that should be guaranteed on the territory managed. Even on the protected nature reserve of national significance instead of requiring to keep the necessary water level, the water management authority made it obligatory to maintain a perfectly water-free (anhydrous) condition, that is it ordered to keep the groundwater level below the bottom of “Nekota” in nine months of the year.
This regulation of the authority resolution, respectively the activity of the territory’s manager to ignore its protection, may have lead to – as pointed out by the ombudsman – the development that in the spring and summer of 2011, by draining the water Hubertus Ltd. has endangered the aquatic wildlife on the territory, and has caused damage to the nature.
Mr. Sándor Fülöp called the attention that the “Nekota” is a territory particularly rich in natural values, therefore its broader surroundings have multiple protection (national protection, Natura 2000, Ramsar Convention). To conserve this natural capital is a duty stemming from the right to a healthy environment, is a common task and responsibility of the state actors and the tenant. The Parliamentary Commissioner has highlighted that those affected did not fulfil their tasks and duties.
Examining the leasing contract of the territory, the ombudsman stated that the State Property Agency, acting on behalf of the Hungarian State, has contracted the Hubertus Ltd. extremely disadvantageously. It let completely and fully the right of utilizing the territory and to take its profits. The State Property Agency committed itself to help acquiring the necessary licenses, respectively it provided the right of emption and preemption irrevocably. The provisions of the contract render it impossible that the lessor, namely the Hungarian State gives notice to quit. Even the State Property Agency agreed upon another contract prolongation after 99 years under unaltered conditions with the Hubertus Ltd.
Besides providing all these rights, the leasing fee specified in the contract (10 Hungarian Forints or 3,5 eurocents per hectare per year) is extremely low. Moreover the fixed conditions do not make it possible to review the provisions regarding the leasing fee, and do not guarantee either that the fee should increase annually at least by the inflation rate. The leasing fee of territories with similar characteristics is in average twenty-thousand Hungarian Forints or 70 euros per hectare per year, that is 2000 times the fee paid by Hubertus. In its comment made on the draft statement Hubertus Ltd. debated that this sum is of slight scale, taking into account the value of investments made by the company on the territory, but according to the green ombudsman the firm’s argumentation is false. Nevertheless the legal debate related to the notable value imbalance should be decided upon by the civil court.
Almost all the points of the contract are remarkably disadvantageous for the state, and can be qualified as unfair, while regarding the leasing fee fixed the notable value imbalance can be clearly determined. The valid leasing contract between the State Property Agency and the Hubertus Ltd. does not take note of the natural values on the territory, its status and the fact that it is under threefold domestic and international protection. Considering all this the ombudsman deems it necessary that the nature conservation management plan of the Nagyberek Fehérvíz Nature Reserve should be proclaimed as a ministerial decree. Furthermore Mr. Fülöp called the Hungarian State Holding Company to take the necessary measures to review the leasing contract of the Nagyberek Fehérvíz Nature Reserve.
25 September 2011