Hungary, Toxic Sludge Village Remakes Itself

B. McPherson
An environmental good news story

October 2010 the world watched a toxic red sludge engulf a small Hungarian town. The village of Devescer was flooded a with two metre deep wall of burning, toxic mud that escaped from a holding pond, the by product of the aluminum industry. The disaster killed 10 and seriously injured 150 more.

It looked as if the town was finished. Houses were ruined and had to be demolished. Farm land was rendered useless for food crops. But that’s not what happened. This is ultimately a good news story. Today Devescer stands an example of resilience and smart thinking.

The town has reinvented itself as an environmentally sustainable village. The site of the two metre flood has been cleared of sludge. Farmland was planted with fast growing trees and the forested land with more mature trees have been turned into parkland. The fast growing poplars are both a carbon sink while they are growing and a source of energy for heating when they are burned. Geothermal heating has been installed in some buildings.

Eighty-seven new homes have been constructed on new ground. Agricultural land is being developed and producing enough to sell to other parts of the country. Donated expertise by architect Imre Makovecz has ensured a coherent and pleasing aspect to the village. It now serves as an example of what can be done to mitigate an environmental disaster given commitment and expertise.

The transformation has been shepherded by the mayor Toldi Tamas, newly elected when the red tide inundated his town.

Al Jazeera     

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