A Research Companion to Water Transitions around the Globe
Edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink
Chapter 14: The Introduction of Floodplain Rehabilitation and Rural Development into the Water Policy for the Tisza River in Hungary
Saskia E. Werners, Zsuzsanna Flachner and Piotr Matczak The whole world had already been created when the Tisza was standing alone before the Lord’s throne. Then Jesus took a golden plough, harnessed a donkey to it and told the Tisza to follow. Thus he set the plough against the soil and ploughed the bed for the river, which followed faithfully everywhere. However thistles were scattered all around. The donkey that was feeling hungry, reached after one and then another, leaving the straight path. This is why the Tisza is so unpredictable, so winding and meandering. (Hungarian folk tale) 14.1 Introduction This chapter analyses the early twenty-first-century transition in the water policy for the Tisza River in northeastern Hungary. In the spring of 2003, the Hungarian government issued a decree that marked a substantial shift in water management. The new water policy for the Tisza River recognized rural development and nature conservation as important objectives side-by-side with flood protection. Floodplain rehabilitation and land use change were introduced as water management measures to replace or complement the prevailing engineering approaches that primarily favoured flood levee construction. From an external perspective, this was surprising given a 150-year history of water management mainly through heavy river regulation, embankments and drainage, where water policy had mostly served the interests of large-scale agriculture. We attempt to explain what happened in the period leading up to the breakthrough year of 2003 and in the subsequent years, when actors had to realize the direction taken in the new...
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