Located in western Hungary, Lake Balaton is the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe and one of the shallowest large lakes in the world. With a mild climate, the flora and fauna of the surrounding landscape is particularly diverse and a large number of rare and protected plant species can be found in the area. Additionally, the Lake Balaton Resort Area (LBRA) has significant agricultural and recreational value. Arable land, vineyards and orchards take up some 80% of agricultural land (49.1 % of LBRA’s land is agricultural), but the economy of LBRA is driven predominantly by highly seasonal tourism. Summer tourists, concentrated in lakeside communities, can temporarily triple the area’s population, exerting substantial stress on the environment and infrastructure.
Due to its shallow profile and precarious water quality and water balance situation, Lake Balaton is uniquely sensitive to both natural and anthropogenic influences. While the ecological parameters of the Lake and its watershed have long been in constant change, current trends appear to indicate the beginnings of a new trajectory, characterized by accelerated change increasing the vulnerability of both ecological and socio-economic subsystems. Adverse changes in environmental variables in the watershed have already led to increased costs. Following many years of water quality problems, including eutrophication, a negative water balance caused water shortages, starting in 2000, which lasted for four years. The exact causes are still being debated, as multiple forces of change are at play, including climate change.
Given Lake Balaton’s heavy reliance on tourism as a primary source of livelihoods, the socio-economic consequences of ecological deterioration can be severe and immediate. If the frequency of years with negative water balance increases in the future, as predicted by applicable climate change scenarios, Lake Balaton and its coupled socio-economic system is expected to emerge as a highly sensitive indicator of vulnerability to global change.
There are no related resources for this project.
Financing AmountTotal amount: US$4,075,000; GEF (SPA): US$985,000
Cofinancing TotalGovernment of Hungary: US$ 3,000,000; UNEP: US$50,000; IISD (in-kind): US$40,000
Lake Balaton communities