Budapest Sun
Floods revive poisoned riverway

By Eszter Balázs

May 4, 2000

Every cloud has its silver lining, even those responsible for the devastating flooding in eastern Hungary.

The month-long high water on the Tisza River is revitalizing an ecosystem that was decimated earlier this year by cyanide and lead spills from a Romanian mine.

The shallow water covering the flood plains makes for an ideal breeding ground for fish.

"Fish in the tributaries, in the small lakes and sloughs are being washed into the mainstream of the Tisza and will add to the revitalization of the river," said József Gyapjas, director of the Lower Tisza District Environment Protection Authority in Szeged.

For example, the Tisza Lake at Tiszafüred was untouched by the toxic spills and contains fish, plankton and other organisms that have been washed downriver by the floods.

"Each flood is a blessing to the flora and fauna of the rivers," said Ferenc Sipos of the Kiskunság Natural Reserve. "When a flood ends, there is always a boom in the fish population."

After repeated toxic spills in January and February from a gold mine in Baia Mare, Romania, experts had anticipated a 50-year recovery for the Tisza.

Sipos said that the waterway is springing back much faster than expected, partly due to the effects of the floods. And as it turns out, the destruction of life was not as thorough as scientists had feared, Gyapjas said.

"Most of the carp and catfish survived as they were sleeping in the riverbeds at the time of the cyanide pollution," he said.

The fish decimated in the biggest numbers - a large plant-eating species called "busa" in Hungarian - are not indigenous to the river and will not be restocked, Gyapjas said.

The floods will not affect the soil of the riverbeds, but that's no matter as the cyanide did not settle there, Gyapjas said.

Original article