Budapest Sun
Officials make a splash in the Tisza

Jun. 22, 2000

Despite this spring's multiple poison spills into the Tisza River, the watershed is once again alive and kicking. Or at least that's what Hungary's politicians want the public to believe.

River managers and Parliament members gathered last weekend for a jamboree entitled Greeting the Tisza at the Tisza Lake, a man-made reservoir along the upper- middle section of the river. In the meantime, Prime Minister Emile Constantinescu of Romania, where the Tisza poisonings originated, said that the river suffered no biological harm.

"The Tisza Lake is where the Tisza was least contaminated," said Éva Montskó, spokeswoman of the Tisza-Szamos Government Commission. "But there are no doubts about the serious ecological damages done to the river."

The lake's purity was attested to by, among others, House Chairman János Áder, who dived in for a water polo game.

Romanian Ambassador to Hungary Petru Cordo was also on hand, entering the fishing contest.

Other features included the restocking of fish into the lake as well as the more immediate pleasures of free beer and roasted fish.

"Fishing, swimming and eating your catch from the lake pose no dangers," said Montskó, summarizing the event's message.

The Government plans at least three lawsuits in connection with the Romanian cyanide and heavy-metal spills this past February. The estimated immediate damages were Ft1 billion ($3.6 million), but the long term ecological fallout will be much greater.

István Horváth, the head of the Tisza Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that discussions were underway with the Romanian state about the question of responsibility.

However, Constantinescu's recent message was clear: "The outdated Romanian mining industry indeed caused significant environmental damage in several countries but no harm was done to the Tisza."

Original article